DeSantis denies shutting down pro-Palestinian campus groups violates free speech

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) denied that his attempts to remove pro-Palestinian groups from Florida university campuses violate free speech in Saturday comments.

“We’re not throttling free speech at all,” DeSantis, a 2024 GOP presidential primary candidate, told Fox News anchor Brian Kilmeade. “I mean, these groups, Students for Justice [in] Palestine, they have said that they are in cahoots with Hamas.”

“They say, “We don’t just stand in solidarity,’ that this is, ‘We’re in cahoots with them,” DeSantis continued. “So, the state of Florida, through our universities, we cannot be subsidizing those groups. I mean, that’s basically providing material support for terrorism.”

DeSantis then went on to say it was “not a First Amendment issue.” 

Officials in Florida ordered state universities and colleges last month to disband chapters of the National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on their campuses. The order followed the national group’s response to the surprise attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel early last month.

“In response, and leading up to a ‘Day of Resistance,’ the National Students for Justice in Palestine (National SJP) released a ‘toolkit’ which refers to Operation Al-Aqsa Flood as ‘the resistance’ and unequivocally states: ‘Palestinian students in exile are PART of this movement, not in solidarity with this movement,’” State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues said in a letter to state university presidents.

“It is a felony under Florida law to ‘knowingly provide material support … to a designated foreign terrorist organization,’” Rodrigues added. “Here, National SJP has affirmatively identified it is part of the Operation Al-Aqsa Flood — a terrorist led attack.”

College campuses have become a focal point of pro-Palestinian protests amid the Israel-Hamas war.

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