DeSantis Defends Banning Pro-Palestinian Groups from Florida State Colleges

Ron DeSantis defended his attempt to ban pro-Palestinian groups from state colleges in Florida, claiming that the move is “not cancel culture.” Last week, State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues, at DeSantis’ urging, wrote in a letter that the chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) “must be deactivated” at the University of Florida and University of South Florida.

“This week, you called for the banning of pro-Palestinian groups from Florida state colleges,” NBC’s Meet the Press host said to the Florida governor on Sunday, mentioning a tweet from Republican challenger, Vivek Ramaswamy, that claimed the state was violating the students’ First Amendment rights. “What is your response?” Welker asked DeSantis.

“This is not cancel culture. This group, they themselves said, in the aftermath of the Hamas attack, that they don’t just stand in solidarity that they are part of this Hamas movement,” DeSantis said. “You have a right to go out and demonstrate, but you can’t provide material support to terrorism. They’ve linked themselves to Hamas. And so we absolutely decertified them. They should not get one red cent of taxpayer dollars.”

Welker pointed out that Florida’s law only prohibits providing “material support” to terrorist groups and asked DeSantis for evidence that Students for Justice in Palestine was providing any support other than words. The governor was not able to cite any such evidence.

“Their own words are saying they’re part of this organization, that they don’t just stand in solidarity, that they don’t just support what they did, but that this is their movement too,” he said. “So, once you hitch your wagon to a group like Hamas, that takes you out of the realm of normal activity, and that’s something that we’re going to take action against. So, we believe we’re totally justified within the law.”

The words DeSantis mentioned came from a toolkit issued by the national SJP chapter on Oct. 12 calling the attack a “historic win for the Palestinian resistance,” although it did not mention Hamas by name.

Leali Shelabi, former president of SJP on University of South Florida’s campus, told WFTS Tampa Bay, “If you just looked at the USF SJP [Instagram] page, they released a statement weeks ago, when everything started, that they condemn violence of all forms.”

“We’ve all invested so much time into this group,” Shelabi said. “And for it to just all be discredited in the way and viewed in the way that it’s being viewed is just, it’s heartbreaking.”

Members of the University of Florida’s SJP chapter said the attempted ban is “disgraceful.”

“Governor DeSantis continues to disrespect American values such as freedom of speech to extend his political power,” the group said in a statement, according to Inside Higher Ed. “To bend the law in this manner shows the utmost disrespect not only to any pro-Palestinian organization, but also to anyone who truly cares for political freedom and freedom of speech.”

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