Anti-Israel Protests at USF Campus





May 2024

Dear Community Members and Friends of Israel,


As you've seen in recent news reports, nearly 300 pro-Palestinian protesters marched on May 1st toward USF. They returned to the scene where police deployed tear gas and arrested 13 people on the campus the day before. Crowds grew with each protest, activities appeared to be less violent, and children were joining the group as well.


The protestors chanted “USF, shame on you, student voices matter too!” and “Biden, Biden, you’re a liar. We demand a cease-fire!”.


Five of the 13 arrested at USF were students, school officials said Wednesday. Four others have past ties to the school, including one graduate, two others who were students but did not graduate, and one employee who is now on administrative leave. The remaining four have no affiliation to the university, according to Althea Johnson, USF’s director of media relations.


Protesters are facing misdemeanor charges that include trespassing, unlawful assembly and resisting arrest without violence. According to Hillsborough County jail records, one student is charged with aggravated assault with intent to commit a felony with a weapon.


The USF administration issued a letter that stated: “We value free speech. … However, these activities have to remain peaceful and cannot cross a line that violates the law or USF policies. To be clear, we will not tolerate violent, disruptive or aggressive acts by protestors,”


Since then, it is reported that graduation ceremonies took place without incident.


Jewish leaders across the region, including those representing the Tampa JCCs and Federation, have been in regular communication with USF President Rhea Law and others in her administration. To the best of our knowledge, USF is enforcing the laws, rules, and policies around protests and demonstrations.


Jonathan Ellis, Chair of the Tampa Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), said, “We take the situation at USF very seriously and we are committed to ensuring our Jewish students there are safe and feel welcome on the campus. We will continue to work very closely with the administration to try to ensure that all laws, policies and rules are enforced appropriately on all parties involved. We are avid defenders of freedom of speech and the right to protest but calls for violence, acts of violence and disruption of campus life and education are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.


I do want to take this opportunity to thank Rhea Law and her team at the university for being responsive to our community. Among other things; They have been in ongoing contact with several key stakeholder groups; At our request, watched the 42-minute unedited horrific video of the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack with Mike Driquez, Deputy Consul General of Israel for Florida; They have attended several Jewish events in the community to demonstrate their commitment to Jewish Tampa; They are covering the cost of 24/7 police protection of the Hillel Jewish Student Center at USF and we know of no other university doing the same; and They have met with students and professionals on campus to hear their concerns directly. We believe this is a much more positive and proactive effort than at many other universities around the country, but there is still much more work to be done.”


We continue to strongly encourage all members of the Jewish community to NOT engage with pro-Palestinian/pro-Hamas demonstrators. The risk of injury or death is simply not justifiable at this time. Please know that we are in constant communication with our elected officials, law enforcement, and other individuals and organizations that play a role in protecting Jewish Americans and we have their overwhelming support.



Am Yisrael Chai!


Mark Segel

Executive Director of Combating Antisemitism




May 1, 2024 - Nearly 300 pro-Palestinian protesters marched on May 1st toward USF.