University of Texas Palestine protest leads to almost 60 arrests

Almost 60 people were arrested, including a FOX 7 Austin photographer, by law enforcement on the University of Texas at Austin campus on Wednesday, April 24 during protests.

Texas DPS said, as of 9 p.m., 34 arrests were made by law enforcement on the UT Austin campus related to protests.

The Travis County Sheriff's Office updated that number to 57 as of Thursday, April 25.


FOX 7 Austin captured on video troopers pinning a person to the ground and detaining them. Troopers also used bikes and riot gear as barricades to push students back.

A FOX 7 Austin photographer was also arrested. After the protest line was moved back, social media video shows the photographer being pulled backwards to the ground by Texas DPS troopers. He was then detained and taken to jail.

The FOX 7 Austin photographer was booked into the Travis County Jail at 8:29 p.m. and was charged with criminal trespassing.

Around 5:23 p.m., UT police issued a dispersal order directing everyone to leave the South Mall area immediately. At 9 p.m., the dispersal order was given the all clear.

"The University of Texas has shown that they do not care about student free speech at all, they sent in multiple police agencies to oppress people, arrest organizers, and this is just what we're seeing across the country," Bill James, a rally attendee said. 

Hundreds of students walked out of class on Wednesday, April 24 to rally for Palestine and attempt to occupy the South Lawn on campus.

The students gathered on the South Lawn and set up tents while chanting "Free Free Palestine" and other slogans, including ones aimed at the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and even Austin police.

"They're getting arrested for just their support, and they're not even really doing anything in their presence, they're trying to get people afraid, but our strength, our strength is in numbers and what we're seeing right now is that everyone's grouping together for one cause," Bilal, who did not want to give his last name, said. 

Protesters are calling for a ceasefire between the Israeli forces and Hamas, as well as an end to what they call the occupation of Palestine.

"People are so afraid about hearing the truth about what's happening in Palestine that they're willing to violently repress peaceful student protesters who want to use their campuses for learning and for expression," James said. 

Hundreds of Texas DPS troopers responded to the scene alongside officers from the University of Texas and Austin Police Department.

"I wanted to come out here to show my support for Palestine. What's happening right now is absolutely terrible, the genocide towards the Palestinian people is completely unjustified," Bilal said. 

DPS said in a release on social media that it responded to the campus at the request of the University and at the direction of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott "in order 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."

UTPD warned people to avoid the area in the 2200 block of Speedway for "police activity". The area is between the South Lawn and the Gregory Gymnasium where the march began.

The rally was organized by the Palestine Solidarity Committee to follow "in the footsteps of our comrades at Columbia SJP, Rutgers-New Brunswick, Yale, and countless others across the nation." according to a post on social media about the rally.

UT Austin, in an April 23 letter to the PSC organizers, said that their event "has declared intent to violate our policies and rules, and disrupt our campus operations" and that the university would not "allow this campus to be ‘taken’ and protestors to derail our mission in ways that groups affiliated with your national organization have accomplished elsewhere."

In the letter, UT Austin said that any attempt to hold the event would subject the PSC and its members to discipline, including suspension, and anyone who attended not affiliated with the University would be directed to leave campus. 

Refusal to comply may end in the individual being arrested, the letter said.

Jewish student organization Texas Hillel posted on social media that it had learned of the plan for the protest early Monday.

"The timing of this protest is not lost on us - making use of a Jewish holiday and observance to promote a hateful agenda - and we quickly contacted our university and security partners to begin coordinating a response plan to keep our campus and our students safe," said the post.

Texas Hillel said it started working with campus partners and UTPD to prepare for the protest "to ensure student and campus safety."

"The University has assured us there will be no tolerance for disruption or behaviors misaligned to University policy and the Governor’s executive order," said the post. 

In March, Abbott ordered Texas universities to revise their free speech policies in an effort to curb antisemitism in the wake of the current conflict between Hamas and Israel.

This request for universities to revamp their free speech policies singled out pro-Palestinian groups. And while it aimed to address antisemitism, it did not aim to address Islamophobia. 

The executive order gave universities 90 days to make and enforce the changes, meaning the changes would have to be implemented by the end of June.


The UT rally comes just after President Joe Biden signed a bill granting more than $26 billion in aid to Israel, including humanitarian relief for the citizens of Gaza. 

About $4 billion will be dedicated to replenishing Israel’s missile defense systems and an additional $2.4 billion will be used for current U.S. military operations in the region. 

Students at Columbia University and New York University in NYC have been protesting and calling for their schools to condemn Israel's assault on Gaza and divest from companies that sell weapons to Israel. 

Some Jewish students say that much of the criticism of Israel has veered into antisemitism and made them feel unsafe. They point out that Hamas is still holding hostages taken during the group's Oct. 7 invasion.

Dozens of students supporting Palestinians at Columbia have been staging a "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" on the NYC campus for almost a week. Dozens of students have been arrested and some suspended.

The Associated Press, FOX TV Digital Team, FOX 4 Dallas, and FOX 5 New York contributed to this report.