”Fuck DeSantis” Protesters Respond When Governor Speaks at UF; Political Plays Take Hold Amidst Upcoming Elections

”Fuck  DeSantis” Protesters Respond When Governor Speaks at UF; Political Plays Take Hold Amidst Upcoming Elections

On Wednesday morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spoke at the University of Florida (UF) in front of the Plaza of the Americas, where a pro-Palestine protest has been taking place for over two weeks. 


State Troopers setting up prior to DeSantis' arrival

DeSantis arrived at 9:56 am, alongside his fellow speakers, Chancellor of the State University System of Florida Raymiond Rodrigues, Director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Dave Kerner, and former president of the Jewish Student Union at UF Jagger Leach. Not speaking, but standing alongside DeSantis were Senator Keith Perry, Senator Jennifer Bradley, Representative Chuck Brannan, Speaker pro-tempore Chuck Clemons, and Alachua County Sheriff Emery Gainey. 

An anonymous community organizer and activist called Sheriff Gainey’s decision to stand next to the governor “entirely political.” Gainey was named interim sheriff by DeSantis after previous sheriff Clovis Watson stepped down. Gainey’s actions have historical precedence, with Watson having attempted to make Alachua a Republican county when he worked as Alachua’s city manager. 

(Far Left) Gainey (Far Right) DeSantis

Within ten seconds of when DeSantis first spoke, protesters started chanting “Free Palestine,” “Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest,” and “Ronny, Ronny, you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide.” 


DeSantis continued speaking, unable to be heard by the majority of attendees due to the consistent chanting. DeSantis can be heard for the majority of his speech throughout the live stream, however, protesters can be heard in the background if listening closely.  

DeSantis accused protesters of being uneducated on history and said, “There’s never been a Palestinian state.” It appeared that Desantis was under the impression that Palestine has never been a state due to Palestinian territory being under the authority of the Ottoman Empire through 1917 until it was overtaken by British military forces. Palestine is recognized as a sovereign state by the overwhelming majority of the United Nations. The United States continues to veto the recognition of Palestinian statehood despite its constituents voting in the motions' favor.  


DeSantis publicly disclosed that UF has received more funding than other universities due to the political positions of Floridan politicians that graduated from UF.


DeSantis regarded the recent signing of House Bill 1473, saying, “We’re streamlining the process for former law enforcement officers to become school guardians, this has been very successful. We’re also mandating instruction to students on using the Fortified Florida tool, which is our reporting tool on potential threats, and we’re prohibiting the operation of drones over campus. [We've] approved $75 million for a new campus in Jacksonville and 80 million for the construction of the semiconductor institute at UF, in addition to 200 million dollars for programs and research items at UF."

It cannot be independently verified if DeSantis ignorantly stated misinformation, or intentionally stated lies; DeSantis alleged that protesters were supportive of Hamas and that Hamas “baked babies in ovens, raped women, and assassinated elderly people in very brutal ways.”


Israel's social security figures report 36 minors lost their lives from the October 7th attacks, however, the claim of babies being baked in ovens has been consistently debunked. DeSantis neither condemned nor expressed remorse for the estimated 14,500 minors who have lost their lives in Gaza.

The United Nations has found reasonable grounds to believe sexual violence occurred in Israel during the October 7 attacks. Their report details that Hamas militants committed sexual violence, which included rape, against Israeli women on October 7th, in addition to subjecting hostages they took to sexual violence. Nearly every news source has reported rape and other forms of sexual violence coming out of the October 7 attacks, however, sources dispute whether it was on a mass and systematic scale. DeSantis refrained from denouncing United Nations reports detailing human rights violations against Palestinian women and girls by Israeli army officers, which encompassed rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Many elderly citizens were found among the dead on October 7th and a number of the hostages taken by Hamas were elderly. There have also been reports and videos of attacks against the elderly by the Israeli Defense Force, which DeSantis did not condemn. 

DeSantis additionally referred to the Gaza strip as "Hamas sanctuary," without considering allegations and statements from Israeli officials which show the Israeli government backed Hamas' creation.

DeSantis regarded pro-Palestine protesters as being unsympathetic towards Israeli people and their deaths. Protesters have shown they are willing and able to honor the loss of human life of both Israeli and Palestinian people, holding a sign that states, "Palestinians and Israelis killed since October 7."


A protester who was holding the list said it contains the name of those killed through November. He said the presently updated list currently records over 8,000 names and wasn't able to be printed. As of the last updated report the number of people killed in Gaza is 34,971.

Desantis and the other speakers did mention reported instances of anti-semitism around college campuses; however, they did not regard reported instances of racism, islamophobia, and anti-semitism that have occurred against pro-Palestinian protesters who are respectively Palestinian, Muslim, or Jewish. 

Following DeSantis first speech, Florida State University chancellor Raymond Rodrigues took center stage. When he took the stand, the protesters could be heard more audibly than when DeSantis was speaking. He appeared to look behind him to get an approving head-nod from DeSantis before he began speaking. 


Rodrigues slammed chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine around college campuses for threatening to halt commencement ceremonies. 

Protesters at UF did not threaten to halt the commencement ceremony for graduates. They did hold their own commencement ceremony, stating the names of Palestinian college students from Gaza who did not graduate due to being killed in attacks from the Israeli Defense Force. 

Rodrigues called out universities that listened to protesters. “The University of Minnesota negotiated with protesters…. Northwestern University negotiated and agreed to create an advisory committee on investment responsibility that includes students. They also agreed to create two new visiting lines, fill them with Palestinian faculty, and fund five new scholarships…. It is shameful to witness these universities negotiating with lawbreakers. 


Rodrigues was followed by the head of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Dave Kerner. Kener answered a question that he said he was asked many times. “Has the governor personally been involved in directing law enforcement and the Florida Highway Patrol to these events and to these university campuses? I answer that question in the affirmative…. On countless occasions, campus and local law enforcement have requested the assistance of the Florida Highway Patrol, and on countless other occasions, we have proactively assisted campus and local law enforcement. In all instances, these actions were taken at the direction of Governor DeSantis.”

David Kerner taking his bag from one of his employees.

Kener was followed by UF President Ben Sasse, who referred to the protests as “a lot of nonsense,” and essentially reiterated what he wrote for the Wall Street Journal in his recent oppositional editorial against college campus protesters.  He said UF will “always follow the law.” 

Protesters at UF have accused the university of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in an incident where officers took away all the protesters’ chairs despite being informed one of the protesters had a disability, preventing them from standing or laying down for long periods of time. 

Sasse went on to commend the actions of the University of Florida Police Department (UFPD) and referenced the recent arrest of nine protesters on UF campus. He said, “Our goal has not been to arrest. It has been to help people get into compliance with the law. What you have done in the face of being spit on, being shouted at with profanities, has been amazing. The professionalism of our law enforcement is a model for lots of people across the country.”


UFPD only faced profanities from protesters once they began arresting three people for sitting in chairs. Chairs were regarded among the “prohibited items” list issued by student life.

An incident of a protester allegedly spitting on an officer only happened on one occasion within a few moments after the first three arrests. Protesters vehemently deny the allegations, citing the arrestee wearing a face mask at the time of the incident. He is currently facing felony battery charges.

Sasse regarded foul treatment from protesters towards police as consistent, however, in the days following the arrests, tensions between protesters and UFPD have cooled significantly. Before the arrests, UFPD Deputy Chief Bart Knowles and his colleagues were on the scene of the protest in large numbers nearly every night. Since the arrests, they have only been spotted at the scene throughout the governor’s arrival, and protesters have mostly been interacting with officers they hadn’t met until after the arrests. The number of patrolling UFPD units near the Plaza of the Americas has also decreased significantly.

Deputy Chief Bart Knowles talking to David Kerner

The recent interactions between police and protesters in the past week have been civil. Officers have occasionally given reminders to not leave the Palestinian flags unattended or to not sleep, but with a more restrained tone than Deputy Knowles and his colleagues previously conducted themselves. Some police and protesters have gone out of their way to show each other acts of kindness. One officer has routinely reminded protesters if they believe the sprinklers will come on, and on one occasion a protester offered an officer a donut in the midnight hours. 


Sasse was followed by the former President of the Jewish Student Union at UF, Jagger Leach. He said the protests at UF struck him with a “profound sense of pain." He said that while he was walking into Library West to study for an exam, he saw pro-Palestine protesters chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and “Long live the Intifada.” He accused these phrases of calling for the elimination of Jewish people. There haven’t been any reports from protesters claiming these phrases as a dog whistle for the elimination of Jewish people. The chants are generally regarded as support for Palestinian resistance and freedom. 


As Leach left the stand and Desantis took his place to conclude the press conference, protesters could be clearly heard over the live stream chanting "Free, free Palestine…. within our lifetime.” After a brief summarization of his previous statements, DeSantis said, “We will not let the inmates run the asylum” and left as protesters could be heard chanting, “End the occupation now," and "Fuck DeSantis."

Jack Walden

Jack Walden

Jack Walden is the creator of Gnvinfo and a 2nd year journalism major at Santa Fe College. From general information, to exposing falsehoods and corruption, Jack seeks to deliver the truth.
Gainesville, FL