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


Gov. Greg Abbott: ‘No encampments will be allowed. Instead, arrests are being made.’

University of Texas at Austin on Monday was once again the scene of major anti-Israel unrest as police officers swarmed the campus and arrested protesters who refused to leave a makeshift encampment on the quad.

At 1:08 p.m., UT-Austin students received a text stating “UTPD Notice of Dispersal Order” for those participating in the South Mall event; soon after, officers began arresting those within the encampment as a crowd of hundreds of students surrounding the melee chanted “let them go,” according to video and screenshots obtained by The College Fix.

The Texas Tribune reported the “arrests began after a group of a few dozen protesters formed an encampment in an unshaded area on the South Mall, which they have been occupying on and off since a pro-Palestinian rally first broke out last Wednesday.”

Several local journalists on the scene posted on social media they witnessed police arrest dozens of demonstrators Monday afternoon, but no official count was yet available.

The wail of sirens often echoed across campus and EMTs were called in to help with heat-related issues throughout the afternoon alongside chants of “free free Palestine.”

“No encampments will be allowed. Instead, arrests are being made,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott posted on X along with a video of police in riot gear marching across the quad.

“The last few protestors are being arrested at @UTAustin,” an Austin-American Statesman journalist posted on X around 4 p.m.

At 4:22 p.m., the sound of what was likely two flash bangs detonating reverberated across campus, sending some students into a panic and causing them to run, according to one student present who asked not to be named. She said she did not know who set off the devices, whether it was police or protesters.

Although she attended class Monday, she said she was having a hard time making it to her car during the afternoon due to the unruly demonstrations and police activity that thrust the campus into “chaos.”

“I’m frankly afraid for my safety,” she told The College Fix.

She said a faculty member told her on Monday that a large percentage of the most aggressive protesters arrested that afternoon are allegedly “paid community actors,” and that administrators previously announced that about 50 percent of those arrested during last week’s campus protests were not enrolled students.

By 4:45 p.m. Texas time Monday, the student said the main quad finally appeared “cleared out.”

The local DA had dropped all misdemeanor charges against those who were arrested at last week’s protest at UT-Austin. There were reportedly no felony charges that stemmed from that demonstration.

“The Travis County attorney’s office said the 57 arrests, which were all criminal trespassing charges, lacked probable cause,” the Austin American Statesman reported.

During that incident, “Law enforcement drove marchers off the lawn​, forming a perimeter behind a chain-link barrier and pushing them onto the sidewalks. A procession of mounted state troopers and officers on foot then herded students farther using body shields and their horses, which at times came within grazing distance of protesters. Spectators climbed onto trees, people’s shoulders and balconies to watch the commotion,” the Texas Tribune reported at the time.

The Texas Daily student newspaper reported Friday the enforcement prompted an open letter to President Jay Hartzell in which “165 faculty members condemned the University’s use of a ‘heavy police intervention’ at Wednesday’s pro-Palestine protest and the UT regulations that ‘interfere’ with the ‘rights of free speech and assembly.'”

Late Monday, UT-Austin released a statement that defended the actions of officers and confirmed many participants were not enrolled students:

Earlier today, a number of protestors, many believed to be non-UT affiliated individuals, erected a tent encampment on the South Lawn, with a barricade enclosure of tables secured by metal chains, and strategically placed tools, tents, and rocks. When approached, protestors escalated by becoming physically and verbally combative with Dean of Students’ staff. In response, the University of Texas took swift action to preserve a safe, conducive learning environment for our 53,000 students as they prepare for final exams.

UT Austin requested backup assistance from the Texas Department of Public Safety to protect the safety of the campus community and enforce our Institutional Rules, such as the rule that prohibits encampments on campus. Because of the encampments and other violations of the University’s Institutional Rules related to protests, protestors were told repeatedly to disperse. When they refused to disperse, some arrests were made for trespassing. Others were arrested for disorderly conduct.

Protests are allowed at the University of Texas. Since October and prior to April 24, no fewer than 13 pro-Palestinian free speech events were held on the UT campus, and four more demonstrations have been held since Thursday, largely without incident. The University strongly supports the free speech and assembly rights of our community, and we want students and others on campus to know that protests on campus are fully permissible, provided that they do not violate Institutional Rules or threaten the safety of our campus community.

Editor’s note: This post was updated to include the statement from UT-Austin.

MORE: Arrests, blockades: Riotous anti-Israel campus protests continue to wreak havoc nationwide

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.