UT-Austin Says 45 of 79 Protester Arrests Had No Ties to University

Jana J. Pruet
By Jana J. Pruet
May 1, 2024US News
UT-Austin Says 45 of 79 Protester Arrests Had No Ties to University
A pro-Palestinian protestor is arrested by Texas State Troopers at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, on April 29, 2024. (Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images)

Nearly 80 anti-Israel protesters at the University of Texas at Austin were arrested during Monday’s surprise attempt to set up an encampment, according to university officials.

“The University of Texas learned Tuesday that, of the 79 people arrested on our campus Monday, 45 had no affiliation with UT Austin,” the university said in an emailed statement. “These numbers validate our concern that much of the disruption on campus over the past week has been orchestrated by people from outside the University, including groups with ties to escalating protests at other universities around the country.

“This is calculated, intentional, and, we believe, orchestrated and led by those outside our university community,” the statement continued.

It was the second crackdown against protesters in less than a week. On April 24, authorities arrested 57 protesters for refusing university administration and law enforcement demands to disperse. All arrestees were released within a day, and criminal trespassing charges were dropped.

“No encampments will be allowed,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) wrote on X Monday as state troopers were deployed on campus. “Instead, arrests are being made.”

Student Safety First

School officials have repeatedly stated that they support free speech and the right to protest as long as participants do not violate institutional policy or threaten the safety of the campus community.

“We will continue to safeguard the free speech and assembly rights of everyone on our campus while we protect our University and students who are preparing for their final exams,” the university said. Final exams begin May 2.

According to school officials, some protesters were armed with various weapons, including firearms and mallets, and turned violent against staff and law enforcement who approached their encampment.

“To date, from protesters, weapons have been confiscated in the form of guns, buckets of large rocks, bricks, steel-enforced wood planks, mallets, and chains,” university officials said in a statement on Tuesday night. “Staff have been physically assaulted and threatened, and police have been headbutted and hit with horse excrement while their police cars have had tires slashed with knives.”

Protesters allege authorities incited violence against them when they ignored orders to leave the campus.

“We just learned some of the arrests were fairly severe,” the Austin for Palestine Coalition wrote on Instagram early Tuesday morning. “EMS just left the hospital with one of our comrades who was begging for medical attention. They suffered a concussion and haven’t received medical attention for five hours.”

They also alleged the arrestees had been denied water for hours and a “prediabetic person” had not received food.

The group also called on its supporters to “put pressure” on the Travis County Sheriff’s Office to release the arrestees.

“Put pressure on the sheriff’s office and demand immediate care for our comrades + immediate release!” the social media post continued. It also included Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s contact information.

Protesters outside the jail expressed their intent to continue with their protests against the accusations of genocide of the people in Gaza.

Following Monday’s arrests, the Palestinian Youth Movement and Palestine Solidarity Committee called for supporters to gather outside the jail to “demand the release of all students and community members arrested at UT!”

Nationwide Unrest, Arrests

Pro-Palestine protests at colleges across the nation have resulted in more than 1,000 arrests in recent weeks as students and outsiders attempt to occupy campuses in a stance against the war between Gaza and Israel.

Tuesday night, New York Police officers entered Columbia University in New York City to “restore safety and order” and arrested 228 anti-Israel protesters who had taken over Hamilton Hall.

“Those who broke into [Hamilton Hall] did include students, but it was led by individuals who are not affiliated with the university,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said during a press conference Wednesday morning.

The mayor went on to add that young people are being radicalized.

“There was a movement to radicalize young people, and I’m not going to wait until it’s done and all of a sudden acknowledge the existence of it,”  Mr. Adams said. “This is a global problem—that young people are being influenced by those who are professionals at radicalizing our children—and I’m not going to allow that to happen as the mayor of the City of New York,” he continued.

The University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) canceled classes Wednesday after dueling protesters clashed overnight.

“The right to free speech does not extend to inciting violence, vandalism, or lawlessness on campus,” California Gov. Gavin Newson (D) said in response to the events on the UCLA campus.

California Highway Patrol was deployed to the campus after limited response from campus police, according to Izzy Gardon, the governor’s spokesman.

Newsom added that those engaging in illegal behavior should be held accountable “through criminal prosecution, suspension, and expulsion.”

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