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More Arrests at UT Austin as Protests Continue

Mounted police work to contain demonstrators
Mounted police work to contain demonstrators protesting the war in Gaza at the University of Texas at Austin | Image by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Nearly 80 anti-Israel agitators were arrested at the University of Texas at Austin on Monday as campus protests continue for a second week.

Students created an encampment on the campus’ South Mall Lawn, mirroring similar student-made encampments on college campuses across the nation that have resulted in the arrest of hundreds of students.

The university’s police department swiftly announced a dispersal order, ordering students to leave the area or face arrest for violations of disorderly conduct, riot, obstructing a highway, and criminal trespass.

The army of students held their ground. Locking arms, they chanted, “There’s no riot here; why are you in riot gear?” and “Let them go,” as state troopers moved in to arrest students from the encampment one by one.

As the encampment cleared, more protesters arrived to fill the South Mall Lawn area. Law enforcement ordered the new arrivals to leave the area, resorting to pepper spray and flashbangs to deter the crowd.

Agitators were allegedly slashing tires on patrol cars, according to DASH Media.

“Today while streaming the protest I was standing next to a DPS Marked SUV. A guy shot out of the crowd and came within an inch of stabbing me in my knee. He was flattening the tires on the patrol car,” read a post from DASH on X. “Today was not peaceful.”

Medical personnel were on the scene, tending to multiple individuals who fainted in the chaos.

Ultimately, 79 agitators were arrested from UT Austin’s campus on Monday, according to KVUE. Charges against the 57 protesters arrested at the April 24 protest were later dropped due to insufficient probable cause, as reported by the Austin American-Statesman. However, Monday’s agitators are expected to see harsher punishments.

All but one of the protesters arrested Monday were charged with criminal trespass. Additionally, one was charged with obstructing a highway or passageway, and one was charged with interfering with public duties.

UT Austin posted a statement late Monday claiming that protesters were “told repeatedly to disperse,” and when they refused, they faced arrest.

The statement alleges that within the protester’s encampment, law enforcement found strategically placed tools and rocks. When approached by the Dean of Students staff, demonstrators became physically and verbally combative, leading UT Austin to take “swift action to preserve a safe, conducive learning environment” for students.

The protests at the university have been met with mixed reactions from Texas lawmakers.

Texas House Democrats received a memo from Ali Zaidi, executive director and chief strategist of the House Democratic Caucus, calling the measures taken by the University of Texas Police, Austin Police Department, and state troopers “unacceptable” and “reprehensible.”

“The House Democratic Caucus believes that it is important for members to understand the scope of today’s situation as Texas students were subject to stun grenades, the repeated use of pepper spray, and behavior by state law enforcement that escalated the situation to a point that over 100+ individuals are now arrested,” the memo read. “… It is our belief that this behavior by law enforcement created further chaos and harm to the health and well-being of students which must not go unaddressed.”

Texas House Republicans responded by signing a statement in solidarity with Israel.

“We reject physical and mental intimidation and all evil iterations of such, including within our own borders of Texas and on our university campuses,” the statement read in part. “Israel has a fundamental right to defend itself and should use any and all means necessary to destroy terrorism, which includes wiping Hamas from the face of the Earth. We stand with Israel.”

Monday’s protest was the third organized anti-Israel protest on UT Austin’s campus in the past two weeks.

Following last week’s protests, nearly 600 UT Austin faculty signed an open letter of no confidence in UT Austin President Jay Hartzell’s ability to manage the school.

“The President has shown himself to be unresponsive to urgent faculty, staff, and student concerns. He has violated our trust,” read the letter. “The University is no longer a safe and welcoming place for the diverse community of students and scholars who until now have called this campus home.”

Lauren Gutterman, an associate professor in UT’s College of Liberal Arts, organized the letter of no confidence. In a tweet posted Monday during the arrests of campus protesters, Gutterman addressed Hartzell, saying she’s at work to get 500 more signatures.

“I guess 500 plus faculty signatures of no confidence in your leadership wasn’t enough to get through to you @JCHartzell. I’ll get to work on the next 500 ASAP #NotOurTexas.”

Texas Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) responded to the letter of no confidence, stating that Hartzell is “exactly the right man at the right time” to lead the university.

“Millions of Texans have no confidence in these radical and reckless faculty members and they are more than welcome and encouraged to leave and find another place to work,” said Leach on X.

Students have also expressed their disapproval of Hartzell, demanding his resignation. A student-led organization called the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) presented a list of “campus demands” on the second day of protests last week. In addition to Hartzell’s immediate resignation, their demands included UT Austin’s divestment from Israel, complete amnesty for student protesters, and the dropping of charges against all protesters.

The PSC organized both days of protests on campus last week but was subsequently banned from all future campus activities on Friday. Members of the PSC attended the protest on Monday, but they did not organize it.

President Hartzell has yet to respond to the letter of no confidence or demands for his resignation.

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