University of Texas at Austin: Riot Police Forcibly Disperse Peaceful Protesters, Arresting More Than 50 People


University of Texas at Austin

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Case Overview

On April 24, 2024, UT Austin — at the direction of Texas Governor Greg Abbott — employed riot police to forcibly disperse protesters engaged in a peaceful Gaza solidarity walk-out on campus, arresting more than 50 people. The university called in police to respond because it believed the protest would be disruptive based on an Instagram post from protest organizers that stated: “In the footsteps of our comrades at Rutgers- New Brunswick SJP, Tufts SJP, and Columbia SJP, we will take back our university and force our administration to divest, for the people of Gaza!” While police responded to the protest on campus, Abbott opined on social media that the protesters belonged in jail because “[a]ntisemitism will not be tolerated in Texas.” FIRE wrote UT Austin, condemning the forcible dispersal and arrest of peaceful protesters from a public space on campus based on their viewpoint, rather than any actionable misconduct. Peaceful protest in a public forum is protected by the First Amendment. FIRE urged the university to ensure all criminal charges against peaceful protesters were dropped and cease any further pursuit of disciplinary sanctions against the protesters.