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University of Florida SDS holds demilitarize the police rally

By Michela

Florida students oppose militarization of police.

Gainesville, FL, – On Nov. 19, University of Florida Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held a rally against police militarization in Turlington Plaza. Nearly three dozen students gathered at this busy spot where crowds of students walk by between classes. The student activists held signs saying, “Opt out of the 1033 program,” and “Schools don’t need soldiers.”

Student organizers handed out pamphlets explaining the 1033 Program and how the University of Florida and Alachua County receive weaponry through it. The 1033 Program is an initiative of the Department of Defense where surplus military grade weapons are given to local police departments, including university police departments. These departments have to pay to upkeep these weapons, which, depending on the items, can become very costly.

Tristan Worthington, an organizer with SDS, led the rally and amped up the crowd chanting, “When I say ‘opt out’, you say ‘now!’” She then emphasized, “As responsibly aware citizens, we have to work to ensure that police departments do not have unbridled reign in pursuing unnecessary armament. Police are supposed to be citizens protecting citizens, not soldiers quelling the voice of the masses.”

Chris Cassada, President of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, spoke at the rally. He said, “Students should care about demilitarizing the police because tuition money should be spent solely on furthering education, not on arming campus police with dangerous weapons. The required usage of the weapons within a year also creates a false incentive to use the weapons against students.”

Throughout the rally three university administrators watched from the edge of the crowd. At the end of the event, they approached some of the organizers and asked them whether or not they’re planning on escalating these actions. One of the SDS organizers simply said, “We’ll see you on Dec. 3.” SDS is planning to hold a final action against police militarization on Dec. 3 where they plan on speaking with administrators.

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