A policewoman arrests a pro-Palestinian proteste; she's wearing a mask and looks distressed

A pro-Palestinian protestor is arrested at the University of Texas in Austin at Texas, on April 29, 2024.

(Photo: Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images)

Police Violently Arrest University of Texas Students Protesting Genocide in Gaza

"After 205 days of genocide and almost 40,000 Palestinian martyrs, it is shameful that UT continues to invest in mass murder and resorts to brutal intimidation tactics to try to silence its own students," said one protester.

Around 40 peaceful pro-Palestine protesters were arrested Monday on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin as police once again violently cracked down on student-led demonstrations against their school and country's complicity in Israel's genocidal assault on Gaza.

UT students and allies are calling for not only an end to the Gaza genocide but also a suspension of U.S. military aid to Israel and the university's divestment from Israeli investments. Protesters chanted slogans including "We are being peaceful, you are being violent!", "There is no riot here, why are you wearing riot gear?", and "Let them go!" as state troopers aided by local and campus cops dragged, hauled, and even wheeled targeted individuals into custody.

"Our main goal is to get the University of Texas to divest."

Organizers said police used so-called "less-lethal" weapons including flash-bang grenades, mace, and "other chemical munitions" against protesters. National Lawyers' Guild volunteers attempted to collect information from arrestees and inform them of their rights.

"After 205 days of genocide and almost 40,000 Palestinian martyrs, it is shameful that UT continues to invest in mass murder and resorts to brutal intimidation tactics to try to silence its own students, who are bravely taking a stand against genocide," said Lenna Nasr of the Palestinian Youth Movement.

"We demand that UT divest from the Zionist state of Israel and from all institutions and companies that are enabling the current genocide in Gaza," Nasr added. "And, we demand the resignation of [UT president Jay] Hartzell for greenlighting the militarized repression of peaceful student protestors on their own campus."

Mustafa Yowell, a UT engineering student whose father is from Texas and mother is from the occupied West Bank, toldAl Jazeera: "Our main goal is to get the University of Texas to divest. Stop sending money to Israel and divest from companies that profit off of war like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. It has nothing to do with antisemitism, or Islam, or being Arab. It's about human rights, conflict, and oppression that people face."

Police commanders eventually ordered officers to retreat from the UT campus, sparking a tremendous cheer from demonstrators, who followed and tried to block a bus loaded with arrested protesters.

Arrested students have reported mistreatment in police custody, including incidents of Islamophobia. One young Muslim woman told Al Jazeera that she was denied period products and was forced to wear blood-soiled clothing.

Some students said they did not plan on protesting but felt compelled after witnessing how police treated the nonviolent demonstrators.

"We weren't planning on doing anything like this until we saw students' heads getting smashed into the ground up the road," Joseph Ely, a graduate student and president of the Palestine Solidarity Committee at Texas State University in San Marcos, about 30 miles southwest of Austin, toldKUT News. "It was really the police at the University of Texas that provoked us to do this."

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott weighed in on the arrests in a social media post declaring that "no encampments will be allowed."

In response, Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) accused Abbott of "escalating the situation at UT Austin and putting Texas students and journalists in danger."

Monday's arrests follow last week's violent raid on pro-Palestine protesters at UT, during which dozens of people were arrested and at least one journalist and professor were brutalized along with numerous student protesters. Monday's action also came amid a growing wave of nationwide campus demonstrations against the Gaza genocide and complicity by the U.S. government and universities.

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