Hearing set in the Students for Justice in Palestine lawsuit against Florida

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Free Palestine
Palestine solidarity protest in Tampa 15 May 2021. By Blannie Whelan/WMNF News.

©2023 The News Service of Florida

A federal judge has scheduled a hearing Jan. 26 in a lawsuit filed by the group Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Florida after state university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues issued an order targeting such organizations.

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker will hear arguments in Tallahassee about the group’s request for a preliminary injunction to block Rodrigues’ order.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 16, contends the order violated First Amendment rights.

Rodrigues on Oct. 24 issued a memo to university presidents ordering the deactivation of student groups that are chapters of the National Students for Justice in Palestine.

He alleged that actions of the national group violated a state anti-terrorism law.

But the lawsuit characterized Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Florida as having a “loose and informal affiliation” with the national group.

It said Rodrigues’ order “advances unsubstantiated claims” about Students for Justice in Palestine chapters in Florida.

The order and the lawsuit came as the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas has spurred fierce debates on college campuses across the country.

Florida leaders have taken numerous steps to show support for Israel since Hamas launched an attack Oct. 7 that escalated the war.

In his directive to university presidents, Rodrigues said the National Students for Justice in Palestine released a “toolkit” that referred to Hamas’ initial attack on Israel as “the resistance” and said Palestinian students “in exile” are part of the movement.

In the order, Rodrigues cited a Florida law that prohibits providing materials in support of a designated foreign terrorist organization.

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