New Round of Arrests at University of Texas as Protesters Defy Governor

Campus police officers from the University of Texas at Austin and state troopers in riot gear arrested on Monday dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters who had erected a small number of tents on a central mall of the state’s flagship university.

The encampment was a direct challenge to both university leaders and Gov. Greg Abbott who last week moved swiftly to stamp out a much larger gathering on campus, a crackdown that led to more than 50 arrests.

At least 40 people had been arrested so far on Monday, with officers forming a cordon around the encampment. Around them, a large number of students and onlookers chanted in support of the protesters. Those who were arrested could be seen resisting the police by going limp or pulling against officers who tried to dismantle the encampment.

“No encampments will be allowed,” Mr. Abbott wrote in a statement after the arrests had begun. “Instead, arrests are being made.”

The university suggested that those assembled on Monday were more threatening than other groups of protesters who had gathered on campus to oppose Israel’s war in Gaza, including those arrested last week.

Brian Davis, a spokesman for the university, said the organizers of the protest on Monday had made threats online over the weekend. On Monday, he said, the protesters “physically engaged with and verbally assaulted Dean of Students staff who attempted to confiscate” their tents. He added that “baseball size rocks” were found “strategically placed within the encampment.”

Protesters linked arms at the encampment on Monday. Credit…Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman, via USA Today

The latest protest began shortly after midday on Monday, the last day of classes for the year before finals. Commencement takes place on May 11.

The group of protesters — which included both students and people unaffiliated with the university, according to campus officials — erected around a half-dozen tents on the university’s South Mall.

The campus police department issued a dispersal order almost as soon as the encampment was set up. An assistant chief, Shane Streepy, said that protesters would be arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, riot, criminal trespassing and obstructing a passageway if they did not leave.

Soon after, dozens of state police in riot gear arrived, a showing similar to what occurred last Wednesday. After the previous arrests, the university said that it had moved swiftly to prevent any tents from being set up or any other occupation of the campus.

“It all goes back to rules. We enforce our rules,” Mike Rosen, assistant vice president for communications, said in a telephone interview. “And as our president says, our rules matter.”

He added: “We’ve seen what happens at other universities when you don’t enforce your rules.”

Excessive heat was a factor in the protests on Monday as several people were brought out who appeared to be suffering. In one instance, officers prevented supporters from throwing water into the encampment.

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