TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — University of South Florida Jewish students said they have been threatened and live in fear. That fear, they said, is amplified in numerous on and off-campus pro-Palestinian rallies, including one on Thursday afternoon.
It comes days after Gov. Ron DeSantis called for state universities to ban pro-Palestinian student organizations from campuses.
About two dozen students involved with “Students for a Democratic Society” or SDS gathered outside the student center with signs in hand, chanting these words: “Resistance is justified when people are occupied.”
“Those are direct calls relating to the butchering of our people and the support of it,” said Sylvie Feinsmith, Executive Director of USF Hillel, which is the Jewish center on campus.
Sylvie said Jewish students are in fear because of protests like this one.
“We’re a progressive student action group on campus,” said Victoria Hinckley, SDS president.
Hinckley said her group held a solidary protest for Palestine.
“Our main goal is to get the U.S. to end all aid to Israel. That is funding Israeli apartheid and the genocide of Palestinians,” said Hinckley.
However, the Jewish community on campus continues to express their fears intensifying because of threats. One student wanted to remain anonymous while speaking with 8 On Your Side for her own safety.
“I thought put my Jewish star away right now,” said the student.
It comes three weeks after a bomb scare forced an evacuation of the USF Hillel.
“This is my only safe space on campus, and three weeks ago, I had to run out of the building thinking it might not be in the future,” said the student.
The university sent out a statement saying the bomb threat was a misunderstanding.
“My fear is that it’s unchecked, now what comes next?” said Feinsmith.
USF President Rhea Law and the USF Board of Trustees, Will Weatherford, shared a university-wide message:
“Everyone deserves to feel welcome and safe on our campuses. Violence, discrimination or harassment against any member of our community – regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs – will not be tolerated. Anyone who experiences or witnesses such behaviors should immediately report them to university police or the appropriate university department.
Teams across the university have been reaching out directly to individuals and groups who may be impacted in some way to provide support and ensure they have access to the appropriate resources.”
Here are resources available to students:
- USF Counseling Center
- Timely Care 24/7 mental health care
- USF counseling 24-hour emotional crisis line: (813) 974-2831 and press option 3