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ACLU Demands Universities Turn Blind Eye To Pro-Hamas Student Groups

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urged college and university presidents Wednesday not to investigate chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) for pro-Hamas rallies and statements, according to a letter.

SJP chapters on multiple college campuses around the U.S. signed pro-Palestinian open letters and held rallies following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sent a letter to over 200 universities Oct. 27 saying any state or federal support to SJP chapters could constitute supporting terrorism, and the ACLU responded arguing the ADL had no evidence and was encouraging a violation of free speech, according to the letter.

“The ACLU is a U.S.-focused civil liberties and human rights organization and, as a matter of official policy, does not take positions on other nations’ overseas conflicts. We do, however, strongly oppose efforts to stifle free speeceh, free association, and academic freedom here at home. In the name of those principles, we urge you to reject calls to investigate, disband, or penalize student groups on the basis of their exercise of free speech rights,” the ACLU wrote in the letter.

“To be clear, the ACLU in no way approves of or endorses such statements. Endorsing brutal mass
murder of civilians is contrary to the principles of human rights that animate our domestic agenda. And yet under basic free speech principles, such statements are constitutionally protected. University officials may criticize or condemn the statements contained in the National SJP’s toolkit. Those statements, however, are not material support for terrorism, but political advocacy fully protected by the First Amendment,” the ACLU continued.

Students around the U.S. held protests in support of Palestinians and in opposition to Israel on many college campuses around the U.S., with many using slogans and imagery explicitly associated with violent acts against Israel. Students at the University of South Florida shouted, “resistance is justified,” and the University of North Carolina’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter used a paraglider in its post advocating for a pro-Palestine rally.

Student groups at many elite universities and colleges, including Harvard UniversityColumbia University and Yale University, put out statements supporting Palestinians following the terrorist attack on Israel.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration ordered two universities in Florida to remove Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters from their campuses in October.

“Based on the National SJP’s support of terrorism, in consultation with Governor DeSantis, the student chapters must be deactivated,” read a letter from Ray Rodrigues, the chancellor of Florida’s university system.

“We are aware of no evidence suggesting that the National SJP published the statements referenced by Chancellor Rodrigues in coordination with, or at the direction of, Hamas. If coordination and direction are absent, the National SJP’s independent advocacy is fully protected by the First Amendment,” the ACLU said in the letter.

The ACLU and ADL did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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