DeSantis Cares More About Popularity Than The First Amendment

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Ron DeSantis has no problem ignoring the First Amendment if it might help him in the polls. After how poorly the Disney strategy has worked for him — sitting 46 points behind Trump — he’s shifting targets. Free speech on campus is a rallying cry among right-wingers! Stanford’s decision to throw its students under the bus for Kyle Duncan and Judge Ho’s boycotting of potential clerks garnered headlines! So now DeSantis is making sure that Palestinians won’t be able to share their hot takes.

From Reuters:

Florida’s university system, working with Governor Ron DeSantis, ordered colleges on Tuesday to shut down a pro-Palestinian student organization, marking the first U.S. state to outlaw the group whose national leadership backed Hamas’ attack on Israel.

The State University System of Florida said chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had to be dismantled as part of a “crack down” in the Republican-led state on campus demonstrations that provide “harmful support for terrorist groups.”

Is that the line in the sand we want to be drawing here? Because if providing support for “terrorist groups” is the line, DeSantis and company better be banning campus support for the U.S. military and the police which, as the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes, have been participating in a growing number of domestic terrorist plots and attacks. It is a tough position to be in, but being pro free speech means you can’t just sit idly by when the government censors speech you’d like them to. Few make that point better than Howard Wasserman at PrawfsBlawg:

If government would accept that horrible ideas and those who speak them are protected, life for free-speech maximalists would be easy… Unfortunately, governments too often either forget or figure it is easier to score political points and lose in court.

Rodrigues yesterday called on state universities to deactivate two campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, arguing that SJP provides material support to Hamas because it considers itself “part of” the movement against Israel. Both are absurd arguments for restrictions on constitutionally protected speech and efforts that would, if pursued, cost the state an injunction and attorney’s fees in court. Plus, it forces me to side with people who want to see me and my family dead.

If you really care about free speech, your ears should flare up whenever governments prevent people from speaking out against perceived political injustices. Because DeSantis is responsible for several of his own:

DeSantis, a candidate for the Republican party’s presidential nomination, has taken a hard line against Palestinians, suggesting Gazan civilians be denied water and utilities until Hamas releases hostages it took during its attack.

There should be no issue with a person denouncing Hamas killing people and taking hostages and also denouncing the suggestion that a state has the moral right to withhold water and electricity from millions of people in an act of collective punishment.

And it is a very slippery slope from preventing student groups from meeting on campus and people getting arrested for their social media posts.

Florida’s DeSantis Bans Pro-Palestinian Group From State Campuses [Reuters]
Dammit, Florida, Stop Making Me Defend This Crap [PrawfsBlawg]

Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s.  He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at and by tweet at @WritesForRent.


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