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A line of Texas State Troopers and other members of law enforcement face a line of pro-Palestinian student protesters

Texas State Troopers and other members of law enforcement monitor the scene as pro-Palestinian students protest the Israel-Hamas war on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin on April 24, 2024.


Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images

Wednesday saw a new round of clashes between pro-Palestinian student protesters and police and campus administrators.

The most forceful response to student protesters was at the University of Texas at Austin, where state and university police, some wearing riot gear, met rally goers on horseback, bikes, motorcycles, cars and on foot, according to The Austin-American Statesman. They warned the crowd of protesters to leave or “be arrested as per the penal code.”

Police confronted them, “each time seemingly indiscriminately arresting protesters at the front of the pack,” before pushing back protesters and knocking over a tent filled with food and water.

By Wednesday evening, police had arrested at least 30 protesters during the reportedly peaceful protest.

On Tuesday, the dean of students sent the Palestine Solidarity Committee, the group who organized the demonstration, a letter saying the protest was unauthorized and the university “will not allow this campus to be ‘taken’ and protesters to derail our mission in ways that groups affiliated with your national organization have accomplished elsewhere,” according to The Statesman.

The group said it planned the demonstration as a show of solidarity with students at other universities who are calling on administrators to divest from companies that support Israel.

Free speech advocates have condemned the police presence at the demonstration.

“This is a deeply alarming and sudden escalation at UT Austin, seemingly on the basis of the behavior of students on other campuses,” Kristen Shahverdian, program director of campus free speech at PEN America, said in a statement.

“The administration should be doing everything in their power to keep their students safe and the campus operating, but calling the state police to disperse a peaceful protest that had barely begun does the opposite. Even contentious student protest must be zealously protected, certainly not preemptively shut down via police force.”

Meanwhile Texas Senator Ted Cruz posted on X that he was “glad that UT Police & Texas DPS are responding to this situation with the seriousness it deserves.” Texas governor Greg Abbott said on X: “Students joining in hate-filled, antisemitic protests at any public college or university in Texas should be expelled.”

But UT Austin wasn’t alone Wednesday in displaying a limited tolerance for protesters.

Elsewhere in the country, university and colleges administrators scrambled to enforce university regulations in the face of growing student unrest.

At Brown University, between 75 and 90 students erected an encampment early Wednesday morning, according to The Providence-Journal. Within hours, the university had informed all participating students that the encampment violated university policy and they would face conduct proceedings.

“Protest is an acceptable means of expression at Brown, but it becomes unacceptable when it violates University policies that are intended to ensure the safety of members of the Brown community and that there is no interference in the rights of others to engage in the regular operations of the university,” Brian Clark, a university spokesperson, told the newspaper. “University administrators and the Department of Public Safety will continually monitor the situation and act as necessary.”

Jay Bernhardt, president of Emerson College in Boston, said in a statement Wednesday that an encampment protesters had set up in a public alleyway was in violation of city code and they should be prepared for “imminent law enforcement action.”

Bernhardt also said the college had “received credible reports that some protesters are engaging in targeted harassment and intimidation of Jewish supporters of Israel and students, staff, faculty and neighbors seeking to pass through the alley,” and that Emerson had posted security guards at the alley “to ensure safe and consistent access to the alley as required by law.”

Nearly 3,000 miles away, pro-Palestinian protesters at the University of Southern California erected an encampment at Alumni Park, where the university’s commencement ceremony is scheduled to take place next month, the Los Angeles Times reported. Last week, USC announced the cancellation of a graduation speech by its valedictorian, who is Muslim, for “security reasons.”

The Campus Department of Public Safety told protesters to remove their tents as police helicopters circled above the encampment. At least two LAPD SWAT officers were present on the scene, according to the L.A. Times.

The university closed the campus shortly after 1 p.m. on Wednesday. About an hour later, provost Andrew Guzman said in a campus-wide email that “security personnel repeatedly asked protesters to remove their tents and relocate,” but “in each case, protesters refused,” and “threatened the safety of our officers and campus community.”