Media Contact

CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office,, (786) 363-2737

April 26, 2024

MIAMI, FL – Over the past week, university campuses across the country have held pro-Palestinian demonstrations in protest of the Gaza war. Some of these pro-Palestine student protesters and allies present at the protests have been met with police presence, arrests, and excessive use of force, including professors. 

In response, public universities in Florida have joined in the wave of student protests in solidarity. While most demonstrations in the state have faced less police involvement, state leadership and some public universities have failed to support students’ right to protest. Gov. Ron DeSantis has stated that pro-Palestinian student protesters should be expelled from their universities and that those who are international students should have their visas canceled. The University of Florida (UF) is threatening students with suspension and banishment from campus for three years. 

Howard Simon, interim executive director of the ACLU of Florida, stated the following: 

“As students demonstrate on campuses across Florida, we remind school administrators that freedom of expression is a cornerstone of education in a democracy. The freedom to share diverse views and spark robust debate about political issues is essential to democracy— especially in times of national and global crisis. Colleges and universities should be places where ideas are exchanged freely, debate is encouraged, and peaceful protest is protected. 

“Public universities should not be raising the consequences of student protest because it is politically expedient. Public universities should not be raising the consequences of student protest because it is politically expedient. Sudden and harsh punishment, whether it be suspension or banishment, should not apply to this protest movement because that message is unpopular with university officials and political leaders.

“The experience of our country’s universities during the McCarthy era makes clear that efforts to silence speech on campus destroy the foundation on which academic communities, and our democracy, are built. We urge campus administrators and law enforcement to exercise restraint in interfering with student demonstrations and encampments and remain firm in their commitment to free speech, open debate, and peaceful dissent on campus. The principles on which this country was founded demand no less.

“Gov. DeSantis' response – that students should be expelled for peacefully protesting – is contrary to our First Amendment principles of free speech and expression. There is nothing more American than protest. No student should face expulsion from their university or this country for exercising their rights. 

“We are closely watching the current protests on college campuses across the state. The freedom to protest without retribution is essential to our democracy. Government censorship is not the answer.”