University of South Florida Free Speech Remarks – CAIR Florida
Wednesday, 12 June 2024

University of South Florida Free Speech Remarks

May 2, 2024


My name is Mari Marks. I am the Policy Manager for CAIR Florida. I am also a proud graduate in International Relations from Kent State University, and a grad student at American University.  In two days, Kent will honor the victims killed by the National Guard on May 4th, as they do every single year.  In fact, they have a room and museum dedicated to these student protestors.


Over the last two months, I have been in contact with university students across the state, and here at USF advising them on their rights, and attempting to build a bridge between them and the administration to have discussions about their requests for divestment. Every attempt has been denied.


I have received two emails in reply with form letter responses about protecting the students’ rights and safety.  Any conversation about divestment or mediation has been completely ignored.


We know divestment can be discussed, and we know it can be passed, because it was done for apartheid in South Africa.  Responding to the students with “It is impossible,” brings into question their motivation, and frankly, their ability to teach about innovation, creativity, business, finance and law.


Right now we have another dangerous bill that has passed the U.S. House to define Antisemitism.  Just as in Florida, the bill is designed to restrict any criticism of Israel, and Palestinian Human Rights speech.  We were able to help amend the bill in Florida, and we are asking the public to reach out to your Senators across the nation to vote no on this bill.  We cannot allow elected officials to not only participate in a genocide, fund it, dismantle human rights law this country helped write, and attack our students with law enforcement and restriction of freedom of speech laws.



Our elected officials are ignoring activists, they are ignoring established law. They are ignoring their voters, they are ignoring their constituents. They are focused on pressure from pro-Zionist, pro-Israel stakeholders, demanding unwavering support.  Ask yourself, why does Israel, a foreign government, have complete control of our government and academic institutions? Why are our tax dollars going to a foreign government? Why are our universities invested in a foreign government instead of American companies? Why are our cities buying bonds from a country committing human rights atrocities?  Why is a foreign state being given government contracts for cyber security and advanced surveillance?  And why has our government sent armed police and snipers to our campuses, arresting, and abusing unarmed American students and professors?


I worked for the U.S. Senate on January 6th. My boss hid for his life on the floor of the Senate. I thought that would be the worst day of my career.  But here we are, with the majority of Congress and Executive office complicit in human rights crimes, and American University administrations turning guns on a generation of kids who were taught active shooter drills at their schools.


This generation’s takeaway is that their government cares more about money and power than universal human rights.  This generation is learning the oath of office their elected officials took means nothing.  That the universities tasked with teaching them, will betray them for money.


I am going to leave you with the words of Eleanor Roosevelt who helped write the Declaration of Human Rights:

“Where after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.  Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; …. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination.  Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.  Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”


During this press conference a baby lies on the floor of a hospital with half of its face blown off, with no pain medication, and families are digging through a mass grave to find any piece of their murdered family members. 20,000 kids will go to sleep in a few hours with no mother or father to tuck them in.

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