UT Dallas protests: Pro-Palestinian encampment dismantled by law enforcement, at least 20 arrested

At least 20 people were arrested after law enforcement tore down a Pro-Palestinian encampment at UT Dallas.

 UTD sent a notice to protesters Wednesday saying the encampment set up on the Richardson campus violated policy and warned violators would be charged with criminal trespass.

It wasn't long after that when police from several agencies moved in and tore down the encampment.

Pro-Palestinian protesters were defiant as tents were removed, and people were taken away in zip ties.

A large crowd remained behind a barrier, chanting as officers kept watch. They eventually marched to an area outside the student union.

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The law enforcement response appeared to be focused on preventing an encampment from getting out of hand, as has been the case elsewhere in the country.

Timeline of Protests

About 100 people initially set up the encampment in Chess Plaza Wednesday at 4:30 a.m. The protesters hung a banner saying, "Welcome to Gaza Liberation Plaza."

The Students for Justice in Palestine said they are demanding that UT Dallas and the University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Company to divest from companies they say are enabling the war in Gaza.

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READ MORE: UNT pro-Palestinian protesters organize student walkout

Around 3:30 p.m., the university served protesters a warning letter.

"The setting up of an encampment – including tents, barricades, and other structures – is not permitted under the University’s Policy for Speech, Expression, and Assembly, nor is it permitted under any other University of Texas at Dallas or UT System Policy or Rule," read a letter to the protesters from UT Dallas acquired by FOX 4.

Shortly after 4 p.m. with no signs of protesters moving, law enforcement showed up in riot gear, including DPS troopers, Collin County sheriff's deputies, Richardson and campus police. They took down the tents, flipped tables and arrested at least 20 people.

As they stood roughly 100 yards away in formation, some pleaded for them not to move in, including faculty.

"Things can be resolved peacefully by talking to folks," UTD Professor Ravi Prakash pleaded to law enforcement. "I know you don't control things. You do what you're told to do. But think inside yourself."

But law enforcement advanced, arresting some students who they cuffed with zip ties.

Authorities also dismantled the encampment. Some were armed with bolt cutters to remove what protesters had chained to trees.

Eventually, trucks came in and removed the last elements of the encampment.

With protesters standing on the outside and law enforcement holding the encampment area, the situation cooled some, but protests continued.

That's when a group of Jewish students said they felt threatened. 

"I'm very glad that UT Dallas brought in law enforcement when they did as we've seen how the trajectory has gone on other campuses when they've let it continue to go," said UTD grad student Nathaniel Butterfield.

A group of hundreds of protesters in the area stood nearby chanting before leaving the area around 5:45 p.m. Protesters later reorganized at the student union. This time, there was no encampment and, thus, no police presence.

Protests at Collin County Jail

The 20 protesters who were arrested Wednesday will spend the night in the Collin County jail and stand in front of a judge in the morning.

A group, including some of the UTD protesters and lawyers, followed them to the jail. They chanted at the lobby entrance before jail officials asked them to move back.

The protesters have to be arraigned before they can be released, and a magistrate judge is not available until Thursday morning. 

Police did not specify how many of the 20 arrested were students, community members or faculty members. 

The group outside the jail said they will wait overnight until those arrested are released.