Environmental Group Members Banned from UF Campus - GTN - Gainesville Television Network

Environmental Group Members Banned from UF Campus

Six people from a campaign to stop genetically engineered trees are banned from the University of Florida campus. GTN's Mayci McLeod is live in the newsroom with more on what happened.

A member from the Global Justice Ecology Project booked a room at the McKnight Brain Institute earlier this month for a presentation scheduled for last night. But, that room reservation was canceled by the Brain Institute on Thursday.


The Institute first told the group another program had priority.


Will Bennington from the Global Justice Ecology Project says, "The student checked the calendar, they didn't have anything else on the calendar for that room-- so that was clearly a lie that they were telling us."

He says the Institute then brought up technical issues.

"And we responded and said we don't need any audio/visual equipment, we have our own, so that's fine. If they could, at the very least, help us find another room--which they never offered to do-- that would be greatly appreciated. And we never heard back from them."

Janine Sikes, University of Florida Spokeswoman, says the McKnight Brain Institute did not have an obligation to Will Bennington and his group.

"The bottom line is, they canceled the room. The application says they reserve the right to cancel the room at any point. That's all I can tell ya."

Bennington says he believes the room was canceled because of clashing ideas about UF Research into genetically engineered trees.

"We are very critical of that; of both the industry and the research being done. So I think, frankly, they wanted to silence our views and make sure students didn't hear our perspective."

The group says it attempted to enter the McKnight Brain Institute on Saturday to find a solution to the canceled room. This is when police were called.

Bennington says, "We tried to open the door and it was locked. As far as I know if you try to open the door to a public building and it's locked, that's not considered breaking-in."

Sikes says they tried to enter differently."...by trying to piggyback on employees who had appropriate I-D's and key card entry. They also tried to get through a mechanical door through the rear of the building. They lied to an employee saying there was a backpack in the building they needed to retrieve."

The five people from the campaign received trespass warnings and are banned from UF for three years. The UF student involved is banned from all of the school's Health Science Center Buildings.

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