Kanye West supporters host show, clash with Jewish students on UF campus

An antisemitic, pro-Ye group showed up at the University of Florida campus Thursday to livestream its show. One day earlier, a cryptic "Ye is Right" message appeared on campus. The group claims it was not involved. Feb. 2, 2023.

An antisemitic pro-Kanye West, or “Ye,” group gathered at the University of Florida’s Plaza of the Americas in a recorded talk show Thursday, just one day after cryptic chalk messages appeared around campus that called for an increased presence from law enforcement on campus.

The group sat just across from where the Jewish student organization, UF Hillel, was tabling.

“Ye is Right,” a show on streaming platform Cozy TV, live-streamed from the plaza with a camera crew while around 100 students gathered to watch and protest. The stunt was part of a string of appearances around Florida campuses, including a stop at Florida State University, where the group spread messaging that sided with the rapper.

Ye, also known as Kanye West, who has been embroiled in controversy since October for repeated antisemitic remarks on television and social media, which include him saying that he "loves" Adolf Hitler and denying the Holocaust happened. His attack on the Jewish community resulted in Adidas − maker of his popular Yeezy shoe brand − ending the pair's seven-year relationship.

Jewish student group UF Hillel passed around “chomp hate” stickers and blared music while one of the Ye group's leaders, Tyler Russell, spoke. Hadassah Sternfeld, a 19-year-old UF women’s studies freshman, said the group was there to spread awareness of antisemitism through education.

A crowd gathers in UF's Plaza of the Americas as the university's Jewish group makes its presence known by the nearby Kanye West supporters, "Ye is Right," on campus on Feb. 2, 2023.

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The recent uptick of antisemitism on and around campus is alarming, Sternfeld said, adding that it’s a reminder that hate for the Jewish community is still present.

“You see antisemitism all around the world, but you never really know how it’s going to make you feel until it hits your campus,” Sternfeld said.

Russell insisted his group isn’t antisemitic and “loves everyone” despite a barrage of past antisemitic comments from Ye. He also said his group was not involved with the chalk messages found around campus supporting West on Wednesday, messages that included “Ye 24,” “Ye for president,” “Students for Ye,” and one message with Thursday’s date, “Ye is right 2/2/23.”

Some students shouted in protest at the stream while others watched from afar. Sarah Douglas, an 18-year-old UF English freshman, was in the plaza when Russell began speaking.

A member of UF Hillel Jewish group holds up a speaker as she plays music to drown out nearby Kanye West supporters on campus on Feb. 2, 2023.

Douglas became aware of the group after learning about the chalk messages. She hopes students will begin to ignore displays like Russell’s

“I wish that people would stop giving them attention,” she said.

The group gathered shortly after the nearby Turlington Plaza was evacuated due to the discovery of a suspicious package which the university concluded was research material. The University Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad arrived on the scene to investigate while the university urged students and faculty to stay away from the area.

The University of Florida Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff's Office Bomb Squad investigate a suspicious package found in Turlington Plaza on Thursday afternoon in Gainesville.

UF spokeswoman Cynthia Roldan said the package is unrelated to the cryptic antisemitic chalk messages.

UF President Kent Fuchs condemned the chalk messages in a tweet on Wednesday and said there would be an increased police presence on campus this week.

“UF strongly and unequivocally condemns these and all acts of antisemitism, hatred and intolerance," he wrote.

The chalk is just the latest in a slew of antisemitic messaging in Gainesville.

In September, flyers saying Jewish people are responsible child grooming were thrown on lawns. In October, UF received a "C" grade from Stop Antisemitism, after school officials failed to complete a survey about antisemitism on campus.

UF currently has 6,500 undergrads and 2,900 graduate students who are Jewish, one of the highest Jewish student populations at a public institution in the nation, according to Hillel International.

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Antisemitic 'Ye' supporters show up to UF campus where Jewish group is