Police Shut Down Week-Long Campus Encampment in DFW

Protesters at University of Texas at Arlington | Image by UTA Progressive Student Union/Facebook
Protesters at University of Texas at Arlington | Image by UTA Progressive Student Union/Facebook

The wave of anti-Israel demonstrations on university and college campuses, which began on April 18 at Columbia University and spread across the nation, continued this week with police action, confiscations, and arrests in some locations.

Police at the University of Texas at Arlington shut down a campus encampment on Thursday after anti-Israel agitators had occupied the space for the past week.

On May 2, protesters at UT Arlington set up what they called a “nonformal” encampment outside the campus library, claiming they found a loophole that allowed them to avoid arrest. The university’s policy forbids students from sleeping in tents on campus. Instead, demonstrators set up tarps and umbrellas.

“We will not sleep at the site, we will take shifts. We will not set up structures for living in, we will set up tarps and umbrellas to shield us from the weather,” said UT Arlington’s Progressive Student Union, the student organization that organized the protest, in a social media post. “We will not give them a single excuse to displace us. Our goal is to take up space until our demands are met.”

The protesters demanded that UT Arlington engage in a complete academic boycott of Israel, divest from companies that sell weapons and technology to Israel, and protect student protesters’ rights to protest without “harassment” and “reprimanding” from campus authorities.

On the seventh day of the lawn occupation, the school administration notified the protesters that their encampment violated school policy, per Fox 4 KDFW.

“Students and individuals not affiliated with UTA have continued to bring more personal items and storage containers and leave them on site, in violation of UTA’s encampment policy,” university officials said in a statement.

The encampment was shut down, but no arrests were made.

Meanwhile, police and officials at the University of Texas at Austin campus are still dealing with the aftermath of recent demonstrations.

UT Austin’s faculty council passed a resolution Wednesday that purportedly “affirms the right” of UT Austin community members to peacefully protest and condemns “the lack of campus-wide communication preceding the April 24 and April 29 uses of [Department of Public Safety] personnel in riot gear.” The resolution called upon the school to create clear, public criteria for when DPS will be called to future campus protests and explain why troopers were deployed in April.

The UT Austin Police Department objected to KUT’s request for body camera footage from the April 24 anti-Israel protests that resulted in mass arrests. Additionally, the department asked the Office of the Attorney General to let it keep the videos private, claiming that their release would “interfere in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of a crime.”

Relatedly, Austin police revealed on Thursday that a man had been arrested after bringing a gun to the campus protest on April 29, per KXAN. According to court documents obtained by the news outlet, the Austin Police Department received a report of “two protesters armed with guns.” Officers approached both individuals separately at the scene of the protest.

Michael David Maule, 26, was allegedly found with a pocket knife and a gun in his waistband with one bullet in the chamber and two loaded magazines in his pocket. Police claimed that Maule did not have a license to carry.

Police did not release any information regarding the second person who was allegedly carrying a weapon.

Despite the continued unrest on campus, UT Austin’s main commencement ceremony will take place as planned on Saturday.

University President Jay Hartzell released a video to the UT community, stating, “While this is a time of celebration for so many of our graduates, I also understand the immense and very personal struggles being felt on our campus, in our community, and across our country and the world.”

Hartzell said that guests should be prepared for a “few extra minutes of wait” or other “minor inconveniencies” because of potential protests at the ceremony.

On the West Coast, new court documents obtained by ABC 7 show that a group of 44 protesters arrested at the University of California, Los Angeles, on Monday were equipped with an array of heavy tools.

A photo from UCLA police shows bolt cutters, super glue, heavy tools, padlocks, chains, and other items allegedly confiscated from the agitators. Police claimed the group was carrying a printed “The Do-It-Yourself Occupation Guide” and intended to vandalize and occupy a building on the campus.

Of the 44 arrested, 35 were UCLA students, and nine were not affiliated with the school, per ABC 7.

At Columbia University in New York, hundreds of Jewish students have signed an open letter to the rest of the Columbia community.

“Many of us did not choose to be political activists,” the letter reads. “We do not bang on drums and chant catchy slogans. We are average students, just trying to make it through finals much like the rest of you.”

The Jewish students claim they have been told “the Holocaust wasn’t special,” that they are the “oppressors of all brown people,” and to “go back to Poland.”

“One thing is for sure,” the letter states. “We will not stop standing up for ourselves. We are proud to be Jews, and we are proud to be Zionists.”

Columbia University has faced mass chaos amid anti-Israel protests that led to the cancellation of the college’s main commencement ceremony. Thirteen federal judges have publicly condemned Columbia’s president, Minouche Shafik, for not meting out harsher punishments against students and faculty participating in the on-campus demonstrations, saying that they would not hire clerks from Columbia.

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