‘No More Nazis! Never Again!’ Shout U of Florida Students at Outside Provocateur Flaunting Swastika Armband on Campus
A group of some 200 students and faculty at the University of Florida (UF) on Thursday surrounded a man wearing a swastika armband to protest against his flouting of the Nazi symbol on school premises, the independent student newspaper The Alligator reported.
The man, who had been seen riding his bike around campus on Tuesday with his armband prominently displayed, was identified as 34-year-old Michael Dewitz. When Dewitz returned to UF two days later, his presence sparked outrage.
According to the report, for nearly three hours, Dewitz stood on a campus plaza, while some students “hurled expletives” — and chanted, “No more Nazis! Never again!” — and others defended his right to freedom of expression.
Jacob Zieper, a kippah-wearing student, recounted that while he was on his way to prayer services, Dewitz yelled in his direction and gave him the Nazi salute.
“I know he meant it to intimidate me,” he told The Alligator. “So I went to shul [synagogue] and prayer with my friends. You can’t fight hate with hate. Hate is irrational. You just have got to drown it out with pride and love.”
Dewitz told The Alligator that his presence at UF was part of a social experiment. “I am upset that [the protesters] are upset because they don’t understand my intentions,” he said. “I don’t wish to hurt anyone.”
According to Gainesville Police Department, following his appearance at UF, Dewitz — who revealed he had been fired from his job on Wednesday for wearing the swastika — suffered minor injuries when two men jumped out of a red pickup truck and hit him, before stealing his jacket and armband.
UF President Kent Fuchs said in a statement that while the university “[does] not accept such symbols of hate,” Dewitz “was expressing his First Amendment rights and we could not legally remove him from public areas of campus.”
As The Algemeiner reported after Dewitz was first spotted at UF, Jewish students were shocked, not only by the armband, but by the fact that University Police “stop[ped] the cyclist, question[ed] him and then “[shared] a laugh,” before allowing him to ride away.
Thursday’s incident came a day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Watch the head of UF Chabad reporting on the demonstration: