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Pro-Palestinian walkout at the University of Florida draws residents and students

A girl wrapped in a Palestinian flag stands on a bollard on the corner of University Avenue and 13th Street as protestors behind her advocate for ending the siege on Gaza. Oct. 25, 2023. (Gabriel Velasquez Neira/ WUFT News)
A girl wrapped in a Palestinian flag stands on a bollard on the corner of University Avenue and 13th Street as protestors behind her advocate for ending the siege on Gaza. Oct. 25, 2023. (Gabriel Velasquez Neira/ WUFT News)

Over 150 pro-Palestinian protesters held a walkout at the University of Florida on Wednesday evening, calling for an end to the siege on Gaza. The protestors could be heard chanting “Free, Free Palestine.”

The protest comes two days after a smaller protest was held Monday evening. 

Abi Fletcher, 41, of Gainesville, attended both protests to show support. Abi’s mother is of Jewish origin, but Abi lived in the Palestinian territories for one year because of their father’s work helping Palestinian refugees. 

“My grandfather was a Holocaust survivor,” Fletcher said. “I can't stand back as someone of Jewish background, and have another genocide be going on in the name of keeping Jewish people safe. That's just horrifying to me.” 

Fletcher said they still keep in contact with their grandfather, who is against the conflict in Gaza. Because their grandfather is older and cannot protest, Fletcher feels it is their duty to do so. 

Another protest attendee Nas Salemeh, 42, immigrated from Palestine to the U.S. around 2016. Salemeh said he still has cousins in the West Bank, and hearing of the conflict is painful. He came to the protest with his wife and three children to show support.

“It's killing us from our hearts to see all this violence for all these Palestinians and Gaza especially,” Salemeh said. 

Still, he said seeing people of different countries and religions supporting Palestinian people helps with the pain. 

Laila Fakhoury, a UF graduate and a Palestinian business owner, was one of the protest organizers. Fakhoury said it was the largest protest so far. 

“​​There's a huge amount of Jewish leaders and community members who were a part of the protests, not just this time, but all of the protests that we've had within the past few weeks.” 

During the protest, one man briefly tried to lead the chants, shouting, “Long Live Hamas.” The large crowd then became silent, with audible pushback coming from within the group. The man then left in anger.

Fakhoury said the man was not part of the organized event and was likely struggling with a personal situation. Fakhoury said she was content with the organizers’ response. 

“They kept it moving and showed that it wasn’t what we were sharing today,” she said. 

At the protest, some organizers asked news photographers not to take pictures of people's faces. Moreover, many attendees wanted to keep their full names private. 

This comes after the Harvard Crimson reported that students at Harvard had their personal information exposed on different websites after signing a statement against Israel. 

“I think it was terrifying to see that expressing a political belief can get you blasted on campus in such a vocal manner.” said a 20-year-old UF history major of Jewish descent who did not want to reveal their name.

Police presence at the protest was moderate, with the University of Florida Police Department supervising the group on foot at each location.

The protest comes a week after conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro spoke at UF on the Israel-Hamas conflict. Throughout his talk, Shapiro said that “Hamas needed to die,” referring to Hamas militants, not civilians living in Gaza.

UF President Ben Sasse, a former U.S. senator, has also drawn national attention for his public support for Israel. 

In a letter to the Gator Jewish community, Sasse condemned the actions of Hamas. 

“Too many people in elite academia have been so weakened by their moral confusion that, when they see videos of raped women, hear of a beheaded baby, or learn of a grandmother murdered in her home, the first reaction of some is to ‘provide context’ and try to blame the raped women, beheaded baby, or the murdered grandmother,” Sasse wrote.

UF has the largest Jewish student population of any public university in the U.S., with nearly 6,500 students. 

On Oct.7, Hamas militants stormed into nearby Israeli towns on Simchat Torah, a Jewish holiday, killing an estimated 1,400 Israelis. Israel responded, launching airstrikes on Gaza and destroying entire neighborhoods. Since Israel’s counterattack, the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 5,000, with nearly half being children, according to Aljazeera. The war is now the deadliest of the five Gaza wars for both sides.  


This is a breaking news story. Check back for further developments. Contact WUFT News by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing

Gabriel is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing