Tensions flare in Tallahassee over Israel-Hamas war

Photo of last week’s pro-Palestine rally at Cascades Park courtesy of Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat

Different advocacy groups have emerged to protest different sides of the Israel-Hamas war since the United States announced its unwavering support for Israel.

Florida Rep. Randy Fine, a Republican from Palm Bay, wrote in an Oct. 13 letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis his desire to see Florida college students disciplined for protesting in support of Hamas.

The governor, who is running for the Republican nomination for president of the U.S., declared a state of emergency on Oct. 12, saying evacuations were needed for Floridians eager to flee Israel, and local law enforcement agencies needed assistance to control protests in support of Hamas and Palestine.

Wafa Elsaka, a Tallahassee resident and Palestinian American, is stuck in the Gaza war zone after she traveled to the Middle East to visit her family. Her son, Kareem, is in Tallahassee with her husband, Ahmed

“These are people,” Kareem said of the devastating events happening overseas.

Wafa expressed her frustrations with the war’s conditions in an interview with The New York Times on the daily podcast called “Voices from Gaza,” which aired on Oct. 16.

“We lived in 1948, and all we’re asking is to have peace and raise our kids. You already took our land, you already took our home, you already took our grandparents and parents and lots of killings happen. Why are we repeating history again, for what,” the mother and retired art teacher told the Times.

“What are they going to do with the people? I want these questions answered so we know. They want to throw us to the sea. Go ahead, do it, don’t keep us in pain,” she added.

Critics have said the lawmakers advocating for college and university students to be expelled for publicly supporting Palestine are actively squashing the  First Amendment rights of free speech.

On Wednesday, Florida State University’s Students for a Democratic Society hosted a pro-Palestine protest at Cascades Park, where some in a crowd of more than a hundred people chanted, “We support Hamas,” and “Resistance is justified, when people are occupied.”

While no specific laws have been passed, there have been multiple memorandums and notices released clarifying an overwhelming support for Israel and the Jewish community.

“Florida unequivocally stands with Israel and the Jewish people during this difficult moment in history,” a memo from the Florida Department of Education leaders said to the Florida Board of Governors and state university and college presidents.

The Wednesday protest was not shut down by local law enforcement.