University of Florida Divestment Coalition Takes Over Downtown Streets For Palestine

University of Florida Divestment Coalition Takes Over Downtown Streets For Palestine

Protesters led by the University of Florida (UF) Divestment Coalition marched from Depot Park to Main Street Monday evening in an emergency rally amidst bombs being dropped on dozens of refugee camps in Rafah by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), despite the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) ruling that the IDF must halt their military offensive. 

As a crowd of roughly 120 people covered the downtown streets, a Gainesville Police Department (GPD) patrol vehicle began tailing the crowd with its lights on. 

GPD patrol vehicle tailing the protesters

One protester disclosed that the officer driving the vehicle issued a command over their intercom to vacate the streets; however, the order could not be heard over the chanting. He said he only picked it up because he was standing in close proximity to the vehicle. 

The protesters formed a large circle at the intersection of Main Street and West University Avenue. Several people stood in the middle of the circle and spoke about the atrocities being committed in Gaza and what could be done about them. Some elected to add their names to their comments, while others chose to remain anonymous.

Picture provided by UF Divest Coalition

A local activist who went by V commented on the gruesome videos being posted in Rafah, calling attention to the reported descriptions and depictions of decapitated babies in refugee camps. 

“I have no words for the images we’re seeing come out of Rafah right now…. Israel spread shit about there being 40 decapitated babies on October 7, which there was never any proof of. Now there is video evidence of decapitated babies coming out of Palestine, and they are silent.” 

Israeli officials have said that they could not confirm reports of decapitated babies on October 7. V’s comment on Palestinian baby decapitations by the Israeli military is corroborated by multiple videos, and a report from independent news organization Democracy Now. 

The video she was likely referencing is one that has recently went viral on certain forums of Instagram and Reddit. The video shows a Palestinian man in severe anguish while holding a small child who had their head removed from their body. The video was recorded by Palestinian photographer/videographer Yousef Hamada.

Update June 6 | The child whose decapitated body went viral on social media has been identified as Ahmad Al-Najjar. 

Mint Press news reported on June 4, “He was only one and a half years old when he was killed alongside 40 other Palestinians, including his mother and his two sisters, Houda and Arkan, in an Israeli airstrike on their tents.”

A report from the Palestinian Youth Movement details “In Ahmad's extremely short life, his family says that he loved trampolines, balls, and playing with cats.

His father used to call him ‘bobba’ or ‘baby’ because he was the youngest of his siblings.

Ahmed's mother and his sisters Houda and Arkan were all martyred that night. Houda and Ahmad were placed into the same body bag before burial.

Ahmad's surviving brothers, Muhammad (13) & Yamin (8) both saw his body the night of the massacre. Both boys are traumatized and have since been unable to speak about their little brother without bursting into tears. His 13-year-old brother Mohammed said, ‘Whenever I see the trampoline, his ball and the other things he used to play with, I feel sad, and I miss him. I pray he gets his place in heaven’”


Video was originally posted here

A man holding a small child who'd been decapitated at the Rafah tent massacre.

Another video that has surfaced on Reddit and Instagram, originating from the Instagram account Habibi, shows the video creator interviewing an Israeli soldier. The soldier makes comments about cleaning “Palestinian baby’s blood” off of his vest before concluding that he had taken baby’s heads and chopped them off. 


Video was originally posted here

GPD set up roadblocks around the protester’s circle formation. They did not make further attempts to break up the protest. GPD did not intervene when a man driving a 2009 Suburban Chevrolet drove through the circle, running into protesters. 


University of Florida English Department professor Malini Schueller brought attention to the history of the displacement against Palestinian people. “In 1948, you had what is called the Nabka. A lot of people will tell you that 750,000 Palestinians just wanted to take a fucking walk and leave their homes. They did not want to leave their homes. They were forced out of their homes. That was the beginning of the ethnic cleansing…. October 7 just gave them the excuse to continue what they’ve been doing for the longest time. This is something that has been recognized by people who oppose Israel's crimes…. There are no two sides to this. You cannot equate the colonizer with the colonized.” 

Party for Socialism and Libertarian organizer Marilyn Wende had strong words for Israel and the United States of America. “These occupying forces…. They are falling. The United States is productively and financially starving. They are showing signs that they are a cornered animal, ready to die. We will not make excuses for a sick animal. We will not make excuses for genocide. We will stand up against genocide at all costs. We will put the animal back in its cage. There is only one solution.” The crowd of protesters responded, “Intifada revolution.” 

One of the protesters who spoke and chose to remain anonymous said further direct action could be taken. “I think it’s excellent right now that we are escalating. We’ve blocked off the streets, and that’s a good first step. But with these weapon companies like Lockheed Martin and RTX (formerly known as Raytheon), Biden is shipping weapons from these companies to Israel with our tax dollars. There are actual people who work at these companies. These companies are run by real people, not an amalgamated entity. I think we can escalate further. We stopped traffic here; we can stop people from going into work…. Those weapons have a starting point and an endpoint in the supply chain. We can stop that flow.”

During an interview, Palestinian Gainesville resident and media liaison Laila Fakhoury criticized the mainstream media’s coverage of Israel's war crimes. “It is just a tool of manipulation and propaganda, and we’ve seen that through years and years with every war in this imperialist history…. The mainstream media is not where we are getting our true content of what’s happening in Palestine. The true media is coming from citizen journalists who have been independently reporting what’s happening to them in Palestine. The only reason people even know about the cause in Palestine right now is because Palestinians have cameras and social media; they’re able to show the world exactly what’s happening to them. Everything that we need to know is being reported by those people and other smaller news organizations and Palestinian-led news organizations. There’s so many right now: Breakthrough, Mint Press News, The New Yorker War Crimes.

After holding the intersection of Main and University for nearly an hour, the protesters marched back to Depot Park and rallied with more chants and speeches for another hour before concluding the protest at 9:00 pm. 

Protesters rally at Depot Park before the protests conclusion

On Tuesday, the UF Divest Coalition published a press release that further details their demands to the university and the warranty for their action. 

On Monday, May 27th, at 6 PM, protesters gathered at Depot Park to demand an immediate permanent ceasefire to the genocide in Gaza and an end to the heinous attacks of the Zionist entity upon a displacement camp on a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) "safe zone" site in Western Rafah. Despite orders from the International Court of Justice to end the attacks on Rafah, Gazans were burned alive. It is expected that over 300 people have been martyred and wounded, many of whom were children. 
Around 150 people marched to and from Depot Park to the intersection of Main St. and W. University Ave. Protests stopped at SE 4th Place both ways, chanting “From Gainesville to Palestine, destroying shelter is a crime!” to call attention to the recent sweeps of houseless encampments on 4th Pl. and Haisley Lynch Park, and highlight the intersection of struggles against displacement and state-sanctioned violence. Protestors occupied both lanes of traffic and the intersection of University and Main, where multiple speakers rallied the group with speeches, chanting phrases like “Palestine will free us!” and “We must continue to escalate!” 
The University of Florida Divest Coalition (UFDC) condemns these attacks made with US-manufactured bombs from companies in partnership with UF. For 35 days, UFDC has been demanding an immediate termination of partnerships with genocide profiteers like Lockheed Martin, RTX (formerly known as Raytheon), and L3Harris. Bombs used to burn children alive in Rafah were made by RTX.




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