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Breaking: ASU cancels event featuring Rep. Rashida Tlaib

Tlaib was set to speak at the 'Palestine is an American Issue' event at ASU on Friday

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Protesters gather in front of Neeb Hall on the Tempe campus after ASU’s cancellation of an event featuring Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. 

ASU has canceled an on-campus event planned for Friday afternoon featuring Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.

The "Palestine is an American Issue" event was announced earlier this week at an undisclosed location in the "East Valley," later revealed to be on the ASU campus. The event was planned by Arizona Palestine Network and co-sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine among many other local and student organizations. Rep. Tlaib is the first and only Palestinian American member of Congress.

According to an ASU spokesperson, the event was canceled for procedural reasons.

"The event featuring Congresswoman Tlaib was planned and produced by groups not affiliated with ASU and was organized outside of ASU policies and procedures. Accordingly, that event will not take place today on the ASU Tempe campus," an ASU spokesperson said in an email. 

Arizona Palestine Network, SJP and multiple other ASU student organizations have since called on the University to reinstate the event.

"ASU cannot claim to hold free speech as a principle while denying Palestinians their voices on campus," SJP said in an Instagram post on Friday. "ASU cannot impose requirements on the event not imposed on other ASU groups or faculty when they sponsor a lecture."

Palestine Legal, an organization that, according to its website, provides legal advice, advocacy and litigation support to communities who stand for justice in Palestine, is involved with reversing the University's decision.

Senior staff attorney with Palestine Legal, Zoha Khalili said she reached out to ASU but has not heard back. She said the event has been in the works since August, and students were informed of the event's cancellation late Thursday night.

"All that work has been done over the past couple months, and now the school is acting as though none of that has happened and that this is an incident that they're just becoming aware of now," Khalili said.

President of SJP at ASU, Finn Howe said his organization was in contact with ASU PD to develop safety protocols for the event in August. An ASU PD spokesperson said they could not verify that, but said any speaker who plans to come to campus must work with ASUPD and ASU Educational Outreach and Student Services to develop a security plan. The spokesperson also said security needs vary for each event and each is looked at independently.

Khalili said she reached out to the University to see if the event's cancellation was a "bureaucratic mix-up," and has demanded that the event continue to take place as scheduled.

"I wanted to make sure that that was not the issue because it seems like such a blatant violation of the law," Khalil said. "Since then, I've seen the school comment publicly about the cancellation which suggests to me that this was intentional. But essentially, I was just demanding that the event be allowed to proceed."

"Organizers of events using ASU facilities must be properly registered with ASU and must meet all university requirements for crowd management, parking, security, and insurance. In addition, the events must be produced in a way which minimizes disruption to academic and other activities on campus," an ASU spokesperson said.

The event cancellation comes after four Arizona House Representatives condemned the event in a news release Thursday and said SJP and Tlaib's "extremist" views are "not representative of Arizona values."

"We commend our universities for supporting free speech and hosting uncomfortable conversations. However, ASU should not use public dollars, collected through student fees, to support SJP," the news release read.

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 5:16 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, to reflect updated information from SJP at ASU and ASU PD. This story is developing and may be updated.

Edited by Alysa Horton, Sadie Buggle and Shane Brennan.

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Jasmine KabiriAssignment Editor

Jasmine Kabiri is the assignment editor at The State Press, overseeing and editing stories produced by the six digital desks. She has previously worked as a reporter at The Daily Camera and Cronkite News.

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