Encampment of Anti-Israel Agitators Arrested at UTD

Texas DPS troopers at University of Texas at Dallas
Texas DPS troopers at University of Texas at Dallas | Image by sjputd/Instagram

Texas Department of Public Safety officers arrested some 20 students at the University of Texas at Dallas on Wednesday after busting up an encampment of anti-Israel agitators.

A group of UTD students set up food stations and tents on the campus plaza in the early morning hours Wednesday in support of Palestine, hanging a banner saying, “Welcome to Gaza Liberation Plaza,” per KERA News. The action was part of an ongoing campaign for UTD officials to divest from any company producing military equipment, such as bombs or jets, for Israel, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Last week, protesters organized a sit-in outside UTD President Richard Benson’s office door.

“We’ve taken our demands to their doors. That’s why we are here, to take our demands to their doors,” Noor Saleh, a third-year UTD student, told DMN. Speaking with KERA News, she further explained how being a Palestinian makes her obligated to act.

Last Friday, members of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) met with Benson long enough to hand him a letter listing their demands.

The letter demanded action from UTD administrators in three ways, per KERA:

The rejection of Gov. Greg Abbott’s “anti-Palestinian” executive order  issued last week requiring institutions of higher education to review and update their free speech policies to curb antisemitism on campus, including establishing punishments for those who violate them.

The release of an official statement “calling for an immediate permanent ceasefire in Gaza and denouncing the ongoing genocidal campaign against the Palestinian people.”

The divestment of companies that facilitate “war, occupation, policing, militarism, and death around the world.”

In a press release, SPJ later revealed why its members had cut the meeting with Benson short.

“Benson was also organizing a meeting with a zionist organization, undermining the work of Palestinian and allied students and painting genocide as a two-sided issue,” it alleged, according to the Texas Tribune.

By Wednesday afternoon, around 100 students and 10 tents had gathered on the campus plaza in support of Palestinians, with campus police officers monitoring the situation at a distance. University officials warned the group against setting up tents and barricades.

“Individuals may peacefully assemble in the common outdoor areas of campus and exercise their right to freedom of speech, but individuals may not erect or maintain an encampment,” a statement read, per the Texas Tribune.

UTD eventually called law enforcement in what it referred to as “an effort to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff,” read a statement obtained by KERA.

DPS officers began to disperse the crowd shortly after 4 p.m., making at least 20 arrests. These individuals were booked on charges of criminal trespass in the Collin County jail, where dozens of protesters gathered outside that evening.

“We respect your right to protest, we have no issue with that,” Assistant Chief Deputy Jeff Price told the crowd, per KERA. “What we have issue with are people who broke the law today, who came into the Collin County jail now. They are in our custody, and they will be magistrated in the morning.”

More sanctions and arrests of agitators have been made this week at various campuses across the state, including at UT Austin and the nation, as anti-Israel students have begun ramping up their demonstrations and settling in encampments. Those at Columbia University, for instance, have reportedly taken over a building on campus, driving it into a lockdown by restricting students’ access to dining halls and libraries.

The Dallas Express reached out to UTD President Benson but did not receive a response.

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