University of Florida president on response to protests: ‘You don’t get to take over the whole university’

University of Florida President Ben Sasse responded to the ongoing pro-Palestinian protests breaking out on his college campus and others across the country, saying that while students have a right to peacefully protest, they cannot “take over the whole university.”

“And what we tell all of our students, protesters and non, is there are two things we’re going to affirm over and over again: We will always defend your right to free speech and free assembly,” Sasse said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“And also, we have time, place and manner restrictions, and you don’t get to take over the whole university. People don’t get to spit at cops. You don’t get to barricade yourselves in buildings. You don’t get to disrupt somebody else’s commencement,” he said.

Sasse, a former senator representing Nebraska, reiterated that neither protesters nor other students have the right to set up encampments on campus.

“I ran by our group of protesters waving their Palestinian flag; we protect their right to do that. But we have rules. And one of those rules is we don’t allow camping on campus. And so, you can’t start to build an encampment, but our goal is not to arrest people,” he said.

“It’s to help them get into compliance with the rules. They can protest. They can try to persuade people, but they don’t get [to] build a camp. Nobody, nobody else does either,” he added.

Pro-Palestinian protests have been breaking out across the country for weeks, resulting in arrests, the cancellation of commencement ceremonies and moving in-person classes to online. The demonstrations have garnered national attention as protesters have set up encampments on campuses throughout the nation.

Sasse noted that officials are not going to “negotiate with people who scream the loudest” amid protests that have occurred on the University of Florida’s campus. He also added that the commencement ceremonies on his campus have not been disrupted.

“We believe in the right to free speech. We believe in the right to free assembly, and you can try to persuade people,” he said. “But what you see happening on so many campuses across the country is instead of drawing the line in speech and action, a lot of universities bizarrely give the most attention and most voice to the smallest, angriest group, and it’s just not what we’re going to do here.”

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