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At least 30 protesters arrested at UT Austin: "These protesters belong in jail," Abbott says

Quieter night after protests and arrests at UT-Austin
Quieter night after protests and arrests at UT-Austin 02:51

AUSTIN —  Rising tensions on school campuses across the country over the Israel-Hamas reached university campuses here in Texas.

Hundreds of students at the University of Texas at Austin walked out of class in support of Palestinians. Many held up signs calling for a cease-fire or more help for Gaza. 

Protesters are demanding the university system divest from companies that manufacture machinery used in war.  

"Arrests being made right now & will continue until the crowd disperses," Gov. Greg Abbott said via social media. "These protesters belong in jail. Antisemitism will not be tolerated in Texas. Period. Students joining in hate-filled, antisemitic protests at any public college or university in Texas should be expelled."  

"This has been a challenging day for many," said Jay Hartzell, the president of the University of Texas in Austin. "Today, our University held firm, enforcing our rules while protecting the Constitutional right to free speech. Peaceful protests within our rules are acceptable. Breaking our rules and policies and disrupting others' ability to learn are not allowed. The group that led this protest stated it was going to violate Institutional Rules ... Our University will not be occupied."

Hartzell said people not affiliated with UT joined the protest and many ignored University officials' pleas to disperse.

DPS said it responded to the UT campus in Austin Wednesday at the request of the University and at the direction of Gov. Abbott "to prevent any unlawful assembly and to support UT Police in maintaining the peace by arresting anyone engaging in any sort of criminal activity, including criminal trespass."

Dozens of state troopers in riot gear asked the students to disperse. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) said law enforcement officers arrested 34 people as of 9 p.m. Wednesday. 

"While we do not discuss operational specifics, DPS will continue adjusting operations as needed in order to assist our law enforcement partners and maintain the public's safety," DPS said in a statement. "The department is committed to proactively protecting the people and property of Texas."

Protesters were heard chanting, "Release our students."       

"University law enforcement officers, as well as support personnel who exercised extraordinary restraint in the face of a difficult situation that is playing out at universities across the country," said Hartzell. "There is a way to exercise freedom of speech and civil discourse, and our Office of the Dean of Students has continued to offer ways to ensure protests can happen within the rules. The University of Texas will continue to take necessary steps so that all our University functions proceed without interruption."

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