Pro-Palestinian student group addresses who is organizing UT protests

Pro-Palestinian student group addresses who is organizing UT protests
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Troopers in riot gear, pro-Palestinian protesters clash at UT-Austin

Pro-Palestinian protesters were met by police after setting up an encampment on the UT-Austin campus on Monday, April 29, 2024.

Following a day of more peaceful protests at the University of Texas, three members of the Palestine Solidarity Committee spoke to the press on Tuesday, reiterating the group’s demands for the university and answering questions about future demonstrations and who organized Monday’s protest.

Pro-Palestinian protesters have gathered peacefully at UT for several days in the last week. Protesters created an encampment at the campus on Monday in solidarity with others at several universities across the nation calling for their schools to divest from weapons manufacturers with ties to Israel and for a cease-fire in Gaza.

Gaza authorities say more than 34,000 Palestinians have died in Gaza as Israel bombards the region in response to the deadly Oct. 7 attack on the Jewish state by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, which led to the death of nearly 1,200 people.

Since the war started in October, the Palestine Solidarity Committee, a UT student group, has held numerous protests on the campus.

What are the Palestinian Solidarity Committee’s demands?

  • Divestment by the university from weapons manufacturers that supply Israel.
  • The reinstatement of the Palestine Solidarity Committee after it was put on an interim suspension last week.
  • The resignation of UT President Jay Hartzell.

Who’s organizing these demonstrations?

Fielding questions from the media, the three students, all of whom only gave their first names, stated that these protests and teach-ins are now being organized by “members of the community.” They said the Palestine Solidarity Committee will continue to come out and support these events.

A group called the “UT Liberation Zone” passed out flyers on Monday taking credit for the protest.

Zainab Haider, an organizer with the Austin for Palestine Coalition, told the American-Statesman on Monday this group is a mixture of other students, community groups and individual activists.

She said these groups hold various and different political leanings and affiliations, but that all are united in their support for Palestinians.

“What we saw was that when there was an organization that did take the lead, UT suspended them,” Haider said. “So I think the strategy of students trying to not necessarily put all their information out there on who was the lead on this is a good protective measure for them to take.”


Will there be another encampment?

It’s uncertain whether another encampment will pop up at UT this week. When asked how the university is preparing for Wednesday’s demonstration and if it would be met with the same type of police response, spokesperson Brian Davis said “the university is prepared to enforce its rules.”

Have UT and Palestine Solidarity Committee met since last week?

One of the Palestine Solidarity Committee members who spoke to media said the group has requested a meeting with UT since it was put on interim suspension last week but has not heard back.

Davis was uncertain whether that was true or not. Last week, the university said the Office of the Dean of Students called to meet with the committee about its planned protests on April 24. However, Davis said student organizers “no-showed.”

Davis said he wasn’t sure if the organizers tried to reschedule last week.

What is the role of ‘outside groups’ in protests?

Of the 79 people arrested on Monday, 45 had no UT affiliation, Davis said. When asked by the American-Statesman to comment on this outside influence, he said it’s an “open campus” and that outside groups are allowed to protest, given that they follow the university’s rules.

Some of those rules include no flag poles, wearing masks to disguise your face or setting up an encampment with the intention to live there, Davis said.

Meanwhile, the first arrests during the April 24 protest came before any protesters or tents popped up on the lawn of the South Mall.

When asked what university policies had been broken that led to these arrests, Davis declined to comment.

As for Monday’s protest, Davis said the protests started peacefully and continued for about 45 minutes starting at noon. But at 12:45 pm, six tents popped up that were encircled by tables that were chained together. At that point, university, state and Austin police moved in and started making arrests.

What’s next?

Another protest is scheduled for Wednesday at noon, according to an Instagram post made by the Austin for Palestine Coalition.

The graphic with information about the protest features a number of groups organizing the protest.



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