Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement by FSU Students for a Democratic Society
Tallahassee, FL – Since October 11th, Florida State University SDS has been involved in actions in support of Palestine and the Palestinian people. Throughout this campaign, the students at FSU have made specific demands of our university. Our demands are that President Richard McCullough rewrite the shameful letter to FSU students that only mentioned Israeli students' grief and trauma, that the university cut all ties with Boeing which builds the airplanes that drop bombs on innocent Palestinians, and that FSU ends its support of Zionist organizations like Hillel & Chabad and their birthright programs to Israel. In short, we are asking FSU to cut all ties with the genocidal Israeli government and to provide support for Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian students in the wake of rising Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism around the country.
On November 10th, SDS intended to make public comments at the Board of Trustees meeting to make our demands to the administration known. Three days beforehand, our former president Cas called the Board of Trustees office to verify that public comments would begin at 3 PM that Friday. They were assured that public comments would begin at 3 PM “no matter what” to ensure that students and faculty could attend and address any questions or concerns about campus life. At SDS’s Market Wednesday table the following day, an FSUPD officer was bothering our members about the upcoming mobilization to the Board of Trustees meeting. He asked how many people we expected to show out and other prying questions.
When the day of the action came, FSUPD informed SDS leadership that public comment had ended at 1:30 PM, hours earlier than it normally does. We saw this as an attempt to quash political dissent and were not going to go away quietly. Thus, we entered the Board of Trustees meeting and silently waved Palestine flags for about 15 minutes. At 3 PM- when the public comment was originally scheduled- we began loudly questioning the Board of Trustees’ refusal to hear our comments. We demanded to know why FSU is partnered with Boeing, why it upholds the settler-colonial “birthright” program, and why President McCullough could not make a statement that acknowledges the suffering of Arab students on campus and people in Palestine. We were directed by FSUPD to leave the building and immediately complied with their directions. As we exited, we continued chanting “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free!” and other statements in solidarity with Palestine. We finished the action with a rally outside of Miller Hall. Attendees had an open invitation to voice their grievances with the University’s support of Israel throughout this conflict and with its attempt to silence student voices.
The following week, SDS leadership received emails about purported Code of Conduct violations by the organization. The “violations” and our response to each of them are as follows:
SOCC VII. H.1: Student Organizations and student organization members must comply with the lawful order or reasonable request of an identified University official, any non-University law enforcement official, any non University emergency responder, or any protective order.
Response: SDS immediately complied with FSUPD’s directives to vacate the building. When we were escorted out of Miller Hall, we finished with a rally outside of the building. Videos of our members chanting will show that they were moving toward the exit doors in accordance with police orders
SOCC VII. H.2f: The Student Organization will not engage in, tolerate, or condone: Behavior which disrupts or obstructs student learning, instruction, research, administrative, or other University operations or previously scheduled or reserved on-campus activities.
Response: This supposed “violation” targets students’ right to protest. We were peacefully assembled in the Board of Trustees meeting and peacefully left when directed to. We resorted to chanting because the Board of Trustees expedited public comment, denying us the opportunity to voice our concerns about FSU’s cooperation in Israel’s genocide of Palestinians. This action, while disruptive, is protected speech under the First Amendment. Further, Article I of the Florida Constitution states that “minor, brief, or fleeting nonviolent disruptions that are isolated or brief in duration,” are a protected form of protest.
SOCC VII. I.1d: The Student Organization will not engage in, tolerate, or condone: Entering or using the property or facilities of another person or entity without the consent or authorization or refusing to depart when directed by a university official.
Response: SDS was authorized to enter the building by FSUPD and complied with orders to leave when they asked us to. Stating that we “refus[ed] to depart” is slanderous and an obvious falsehood.
We condemn the actions of FSUPD, which surveilled and harassed SDS members at ‘Market Wednesday’ the week of our Board of Trustees action. The surveillance and harassment of FSUPD was a clear attempt to target students who are members of FSU SDS. This harassment is a violation of students' right to free speech.
The attacks on FSU SDS do not come in a vacuum. Across the country, university administrators and politicians have threatened students' First Amendment right to protest. In Florida, Ron DeSantis ordered SJP chapters to be delisted on dubious terrorism charges. Florida State Representative Randy Fine has made slanderous accusations calling student protesters and organizations ‘Hamas’ or ‘pro-Hamas’. Jewish Voice for Peace was delisted at Brandeis University and JVP and SJP were suspended at Columbia.
SDS condemns the attacks on student protesters across the country. When students' First Amendment rights are under attack, we must stand up and fight back!
Hands off our movements!
Defend First Amendment Rights!
#TallahasseeFL #International #Palestine #StudentMovement #SDS #AntiWar