Watch CBS News

Protest encampment forcibly dismantled, arrests made at UT Austin

Protesters and police clash at UT Austin
Protesters and police clash at UT Austin 01:56

AUSTIN — Chaos erupted at the University of Texas in Austin Monday as law enforcement moved in to make arrests and forcibly dismantle a protest encampment.

Protesters chanting "Free Palestine" set up encampments on the South Lawn.  


The university said protesters set up a barricade of tables secured by metal chains, "strategically placed tools, tents and rocks" around the encampment. 

Repeated directives from the administration and law enforcement to remove their tents were ignored, the school said, and university staff who tried to confiscate the tents were attacked physically and verbally.

"UT Austin requested backup assistance from the Texas Department of Public Safety to protect the safety of the campus community and enforce our Institutional Rules, such as the rule that prohibits encampments on campus," the school said in a statement. 

Because of the encampments and other violations of the university's Institutional Rules related to protests, "protestors were told repeatedly to disperse." 

"No encampments will be allowed," Gov. Greg Abbott said via social media. "Instead, arrests are being made."    

State troopers in riot gear moved in.

"When they refused to disperse, some arrests were made for trespassing," the school said. "Others were arrested for disorderly conduct." 

UT and partner law enforcement agencies then dismantled the encampment.

"On Saturday the University received extensive online threats from a group organizing today's protest," UT said in a statement. "These threats have been reported to local, state and federal law enforcement. Since October and prior to April 24, no fewer than 13 pro-Palestinian free speech events were held on the UT campus, and four since then, largely without incident. The university will continue to support the free speech and assembly rights of our community while also enforcing its Institutional Rules."

Seventy-nine people were arrested Monday. Of them, 45 had no ties to the university. Weapons confiscated included guns, buckets, large rocks, bricks, steel-enforced wood plans, mallets and chains. Police were also hit with horse excrement.

The University of Texas System Board of Regents Chairman Kevin P. Eltife released a statement Tuesday saying, "any attempt to shut down or disrupt UT operations will not be tolerated." 

"While free speech is fundamental to our educational institutions, it is violated when it includes threats to campus safety and security or refusal to comply with institutional policies and law," Eltife wrote. "At UT Austin, I have been working closely with President Hartzell on decisions to protect its entire campus community, and we will not acquiesce on those protections under any circumstance."

Eltife also thanked DPS for its assistance.

"There is a clear line between protesting and rioting and an even clearer line between free speech and violence," Texas Sen. John Cornyn said on the floor Tuesday. "I'm glad the University of Texas at Austin made it clear that antisemitism has no place on its campus."

Students at UT Austin and across the country have been calling on school boards to sever financial ties with companies and institutions that support Israel.        

Last Wednesday, hundreds of UT Austin students walked out of class in support of Palestine. At the time, university president Jay Hartzell said people not affiliated with the school joined that protest and ignored university officials' pleas to disperse. Dozens of state troopers in riot gear asked the students to disperse. The Texas Department of Public Safety said law enforcement officers arrested over 50 people last Wednesday. Many of those charges were dropped.

Across the country, nearly a thousand demonstrators have since been arrested on college campuses.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.