TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — On the campus of the University of South Florida Thursday, a group of students came out to protest in favor of Palestine and against Israel. Some carried Palestinian flags while others had signs that read “students in favor of socialism.”
One student, who says she grew up on the West Bank and still has family there says they did not come out to express antisemitic feelings.
“They are calling us antisemitic and they think all of the protests we are holding, we’re aiming to hurt Jewish people or we are trying to be violent towards them, which is completely not the truth,” said the student who did not want to have her name used in this story.
The protests come just one day after a bomb scare forced the evacuation of a Jewish student center on campus.
“We are scared, we shouldn’t have to be scared. We had people who had to find somewhere else to sleep last night because they were worried about their dorms, their rooms, their apartments. They were worried people would find them, hurt them,” said one Jewish student in a group of students who also don’t want to have their names used because they say they have been threatened on campus.
The students say they felt betrayed by the university after USF sent out a statement saying the bomb threat had been a misunderstanding and that no crime had been committed.
“For those that were in the building at the time, they were scared for their lives,” one student said.
They say people in the Jewish student center found the threat online and showed it to a USF police officer. The threat said they had 15 minutes to get out of the building.
After it was evacuated, USF police and a specially-trained dog searched the building, but did not find any explosive devices.
The students say the officer told them he thought the threat was serious.
“He said, ‘I do not think you cried wolf. I was the one who cleared this facility. I was the one who deemed the threat credible,'” said one student.
After the school issued the statement, the students say they’ve felt even more unsafe on campus.
“The second email was sent out and we kind of felt like we had been blindsided and back-stabbed at the same time,” said a student.
On Wednesday, USF President Rhea Law issued a statement saying, “the safety and well-being of all members of the university community is our highest priority.”
The Jewish students who spoke out on Thursday say they disagree.
“We feel like we are not being taken seriously,” said a student.