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Longtime UT-Austin lecturer fired after altercation with police at anti-Israel protest fights back

A longtime UT-Austin lecturer fired after he got into an altercation with police clearing out an anti-Israel encampment on campus has lawyered up and is arguing his actions have been blown way out of proportion.

Rich Heyman, a lecturer since 2006 in the university’s College of Liberal Arts, is scheduled to appear in court today over a misdemeanor charge he faces for allegedly interfering with police during the protest.

In an email to The College Fix, Heyman said what he faces over the incident is “not fair or just.”

“It’s a travesty and an outrage,” Heyman said via email, declining to comment further.

The controversy centers on an April 29 pro-Palestinian encampment protest at the university cleared out by police.

Bodycam footage of the incident shows Heyman slowly walking along as the crowd is dispersed and an officer yells “get out of here” and moves toward the scholar and puts his hands on him.

In the video, Heyman appears infuriated by the officer’s actions and yells, “Hey, I am a fucking professor here, and you pushed me” as he pushes back, shouts expletives, raises a water bottle over his head in a threatening manner, and points his finger aggressively in the officer’s face.

A female masked protester is then seen grabbing Heyman’s arm in an attempt to gently pull him away and diffuse the situation as two other officers intervene and block and redirect the scholar’s frustrations.

The police allege in their probable cause affidavit obtained by the Austin-American Statesman that Heyman broke the police officer’s bike’s bell, which is valued at $62. The interference charge is a misdemeanor and, if found guilty, is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and a maximum of 180 days in county jail, the newspaper reported.

The lecturer was arrested at his home a week after the incident. According to Gerry Morris, Heyman’s attorney, the University of Texas at Austin fired Heyman through an email after his arrest, refraining from giving a reason due to Heyman’s lack of tenure at the university, the Texas Tribune reported, adding “Heyman was scheduled to teach three classes during the upcoming fall semester.”

UT Austin spokesperson Brian Davis told The College Fix in an email the university does not comment on personnel matters.

Morris argues the accusations against Heyman are more dramatic than what actually happened, and that the arrest affidavit, bodycam footage and videos from bystanders seem to present a different perspective.

“Mr. Heyman was pushed, he stumbled backwards and grabbed the handlebars of the bicycle as he was falling backwards,” Morris told Fox 7. Morris plans to request for the case to be dismissed by the Travis County Attorney’s Office, the Austin American-Statesman also reported.

Heyman was employed for 18 years as a professor within the College of Liberal Arts and taught Contemporary Cultural Geography, Introduction to Urban Studies, Modern American City, and the Culture of Cities, according to his faculty bio.

Anne Lewis, region representative for the UT chapter of the Texas State Employees Union, told the Austin Chronicle that Heyman’s situation is an example of “an escalation of right-wing attacks on higher education.”

Most of the charges have been dropped against those arrested at the April 29 UT Austin encampment.

MORE: ‘No encampments allowed’: Officers conduct mass arrests at UT-Austin pro-Palestinian protest — again

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