University of Texas Suspends Palestine Solidarity Committee After On-Campus Pro-Hamas Protests

Pro-Palestine protesters at the University of Texas at Austin. (Jewish student carries sig
Randy Clark/Breitbart Texas

AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin suspended the Palestine Solidarity Committee, a registered student group at the campus and a chapter of the national Students for Justice in Palestine. The move follows several campus protests last week that saw nearly 60 people arrested for criminal trespass. The arrests occurred on Wednesday after law enforcement orders to disperse and leave the central tower area of the campus were ignored.

On Friday, after receiving formal notification from the university that the organization was being suspended, the group posted a message on Facebook encouraging supporters to contact the administration and demand reinstatement.

FACEBOOK: the Palestine Solidarity Committee

FACEBOOK: the Palestine Solidarity Committee

In the lengthy Facebook posting, the group appears to deliberately leave the “I” in Israel in lowercase while writing the “P” in Palestine in uppercase. The message reads:

 UT’s suspension of the Palestine Solidarity Committee is an attack on free speech to distract from and enable israel’s genocidal campaign against the Palestinian people!

While Jay Hartzell and Greg Abbot authorized Texas State Troopers, Austin Police, and UT police to violently attack and arrest protesters on campus, Palestinians continue to live in a state of emergency that UT refuses to recognize. Now, as the number of Palestinians killed by israel has surpassed 34,000, the university has repeatedly changed protest policies and been deliberately vague about these changes, and committed to violently dispersing protests in their campaign of intimidation and brutalization of our student body.

This demonstrates UT’s selective censorship of pro-Palestinian student organizations as an attempt to prevent protest against israel’s increasingly brutal attacks. We recognize UT’s intimidation tactics for what they are: our suspension is the latest instance of a pattern of censorship. UT’s repression of our free speech reinforces a racist narrative that devalues Palestinian life.

As students of diverse backgrounds across the country rise up to defend Palestinian lives, campus administrations like ours are trying to silence our voices. But we will not be silent. As israel continues to bomb hospitals, schools, homes and refugee camps while cutting off food and water to more than 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, it is imperative that we act, and with urgency. Palestinian lives are at stake. The united front of UT’s Palestine Solidarity Committee and our allies unequivocally calls for a ceasefire now, and will continue to call on UT to divest from israeli apartheid.

Breitbart Texas attended the rally on Thursday on the eve of the suspension. This reporter observed the walk-out and protest organized by the Palestine Solidarity Committee on Thursday afternoon near the campus’ central mall near the University of Texas Tower. Many within the group of approximately 300 demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and wore the Arab keffiyeh, some carrying signs that read “Free Palestine” as they moved about the mall. More than 100 others staged on the grassy area near the tower, posting signs on the George Washington statue that read “Support YOUR Community, No Cops.”

Pro-Palestine Protest at the University of Texas in Austin. (Randy Clark/Breitbart Texas)

The pro-Palestine protesters refused to speak to Breitbart Texas on camera or to identify themselves when asked questions about the purpose of the protest. Some of the few who would speak at all expressed displeasure concerning the arrests made during Wednesday’s protest. The pro-Israel counter-protesters were much more forthcoming and described what they experienced during Wednesday’s rally.

Pro-Palestine Protest at the University of Texas in Austin. (Randy Clark/Breitbart Texas)

Oceane Maher, a young lady supporting the Jewish students on campus, carried a sign that read, “Protesters threatened to kill us, stole our signs, told us to go back to Germany, chanted all of Palestine is Arab, called for an intifada.” Maher told Breitbart Texas this is what she experienced firsthand on Wednesday but said the police response improved the situation on Thursday. Several other pro-Israel students carried Israeli flags and walked among the crowd. They met with some less than friendly looks and in one case a middle finger wave from the pro-Palestine protesters. The interaction did not get physical.

Jewish student carries sign explaining what happened on first day of pro-Palestine protest at the University of Texas. (Randy Clark/Breitbart Texas)

Jewish student carries a sign explaining what happened on the first day of the pro-Palestine protest at the University of Texas. (Randy Clark/Breitbart Texas)

As reported by Breitbart Texas, Seth Greenwald, a Jewish University of Texas law student, said he was spat on twice on the first day of the pro-Palestine rally. Greenwald also acknowledged the police response contributed to a much calmer environment on Thursday. As reported by Breitbart Texas, multiple arrests were made after the pro-Palestine protesters refused to disperse after attempting to occupy portions of the campus, similar to the Colombia University earlier in the week.

Randy Clark / Breitbart Texas

University of Texas President Jay Hartzell issued a statement on Thursday addressing the move to cancel Wednesday’s protest, citing events at other universities nationwide. His message read:

Yesterday was clearly a rough, divisive day for our campus. As the push to disrupt top universities spreads across the country, many campuses such as ours are facing similarly difficult challenges. We are all wrestling with how to juggle broad, important goals, including student safety, continuity and excellence in teaching and research, and the right to express one’s views and call for change. I imagine that virtually all of us support each of those goals, even though we might disagree to some extent about how to weigh them in a particular situation. The University’s decision to not allow yesterday’s event to go as planned was made because we had credible indications that the event’s organizers, whether national or local, were trying to follow the pattern we see elsewhere, using the apparatus of free speech and expression to severely disrupt a campus for a long period.”

By early Thursday, most of the nearly arrested for criminal trespassing at the campus during Wednesday’s protest were released from Travis County Jail. Most of the criminal cases were dismissed by Travis County Attorney Delia Garza, who raised issues about the probable cause of arrest by law enforcement officers.

In a statement released on Thursday, Garza stated:

The Travis County Attorney’s Office received several cases yesterday and throughout the evening as a result of yesterday’s demonstration at the University of Texas. Legal concerns were raised by defense counsel. We individually reviewed each case that was presented and agreed there were deficiencies in the probable cause affidavits. The Court affirmed and ordered the release of those individuals. We will continue to individually review all cases presented to our office to determine whether prosecution is factually and legally appropriate.

Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol.  Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.


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