Anti-Israel protesters arrested at UT-Austin
Hundreds of anti-Israel protestors gathered on the UT campus throughout the day Wednesday, April 24, 2024. At least 57 arrests were made. Photo: Micah Bernstein

TJP Staff Report

This story was updated April 25 at 11:34 a.m.

Around 57 were arrested at the University of Texas at Austin Wednesday during an anti-Israel protest on the 40 acres outside the Gregory Gym according to various news outlets. The protest garnered hundreds of participants throughout the day and was organized by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, a registered student organization. The protesters were met by campus police as well as Texas State Troopers on horseback and Austin Police Department officers. The crowd dispersed and reorganized on the South lawn. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the protest was ongoing.

“UT Austin does not tolerate disruptions of campus activities or operations like we have seen at other campuses,” the UT Division of Student Affairs said in a statement before the protest. “This is an important time in our semester with students finishing classes and studying for finals and we will act first and foremost to allow those critical functions to proceed without interruption.”

The protest which began when students walked out of class at 11:40 a.m. was one of many across the country in the last several days including at University of Texas at Dallas on Tuesday.

Protesters are demanding that their respective schools divest holdings in Israel following the Israel-Hamas War which began Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 Jews and kidnapped some 250 Israelis and others. More than 130 hostages remain in Gaza, though about a quarter of them are believed to have perished according to various sources.

Rabbi Stephanie Max, University of Texas Hillel executive director, issued the following statement Tuesday via email and Facebook:

“Early on Monday, we learned of a plan for a large-scale anti-Israel protest on our UT campus during Passover. The timing of this protest is not lost on us — making use of a Jewish holiday and observance to promote a hateful agenda — and we quickly contacted our university and security partners to begin coordinating a response plan to keep our campus and our students safe.

“We and our campus partners are coordinating with UTPD in preparation for the protest tomorrow, including both proactive and responsive measures to ensure student and campus safety. The University has assured us there will be no tolerance for disruption or behaviors misaligned to University policy and the Governor’s executive order.”

On March 27, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott issued an executive order which addressed antisemitism on college campuses in Texas.

The governor directed Texas colleges and universities to “review and update free speech policies to address the sharp rise in antisemitic speech and acts on university campuses and establish appropriate punishments, including expulsion from the institution.”

He also called for institutions to discipline the Palestine Solidarity Committee, Students for Justice in Palestine and other related groups when they violate such policies and to include the definition of antisemitism, which the state adopted, “in university free speech policies to guide university personnel and students on what constitutes antisemitic speech.”

In her statement, Rabbi Max outlined ways students with safety concerns could access resources through Hillel, the UT Dean of Students, the UT Police Department and reportcampushate.org.

She added, “Our continued partnership with the UT administration has been crucial and effective throughout the school year: This month, we hosted a meaningful and hugely successful Israel Block Party with over 700 participants where countless students saw the hostage poster display or spoke at the ‘Ask Me Anything’ booth, even with a small protest (about 90 students) nearby.

“We ask that the community continue to support students through Texas Hillel. We had a full house for our first seder last night, and expect another big group tonight, alongside sponsored seders throughout campus. Even though we hate to email you during a holiday, we are so grateful for the messages of concern and support we have received — thank you for helping us ensure that Jewish life on campus remains strong.”

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