Austin police and DPS wrestle protestor to ground at Palestine Solidarity Committee rally April 24 - Capitol Inside photos


UT Defends Brutal Treatment of Protestors
with Campus Free Speech Law Loophole

Capitol Inside
April 26, 2024

University of Texas officials sought on Friday to justify violent police tactics against unarmed students at a campus demonstration with the same conspiracy theories that proved to be a hoax in 2020 when state leaders and police tried to blame problems at social justice protests on antifascist radicals from other states.

With current UT President Jay Hartzell as a puppet accomplice, Governor Greg Abbott appeared to make a mockery of a law that he signed five years ago to protect free speech on college campuses when he ordered the Department of Public Safety to crush the Palestine solidarity protest at the outset by physically retraining student participants and taking them to jail.

After Abbott declared that students at the event should be arrested and expelled, Travis County officials responded by confirming on Friday that they'd dismissed trespassing charges against all 57 people who were arrested in the melee that the DPS triggered at the governor's command at the protest that was peaceful until the police arrived.

But school administration officials thought they'd found a way to circumvent the letter of the law that was approved in Senate Bill 18 with a determination that the protest would be an infraction of university policy because it would interfere with classes and studies at the state's flagship campus.

So the UT administration chose a strategy that disrupted the learning environment on the campus in Austin in maximum fashion instead when dozens baton-wielding Department of Public Officers donning riot gear march on to the campus in a scene more fitting for a dystopian Hollywood thriller than the situation they encountered Wednesday afternoon at UT.

UT rekindled visions of Antifa fears initially on Thursday when it reported that 26 of 55 people who were arrested were not enrolled as students as the flagship Texas campus. UT officials expressed concerns about "outside agitators" in a memo that was ostensibly circulated the day before the protest and "leaked" to selective media outlets amid a public backlash that the university apparently failed to anticipate with its attempts to please the governor.

While Abbott and the school dealt a significant blow to the First Amendment with actions that could hurt its reputation and recruiting for years to come, the use of force that was needless and completely unjustified appeared to make a mockery of the law that the Legislature approved in Senate Bill 18 with his blessings in 2019.

But Abbott and other state officials including DPS Director Steve McCraw played the same card four years ago when they sought to blame antifascist militants from other states for problems at social justice demonstrations in Texas cities less than a year after SB 18 took effect. The outside agitator claims turned out to be unfounded when the lion's share of people arrested at riots in the summer of 2020 were local residents.

Abbott and the school administration dealt a significant blow to the First Amendment that Texas lawmakers and the governor claimed to be protecting at the state's universities with the passage of Senate Bill 18 in 2019. The use of force that was clearly needless and unjustified could come back to haunt the university on an array of fronts after using a loophole in SB 18 to set the stage for the law enforcement roundup of protestors who were students in a majority of cases.

Journalists and other objective eyewitnesses on the scene watched in disbelief as DPS troopers sought to push hundreds of chanting protestors down a hill before officers started grabbing students and throwing them to the ground where they were pinned by several officers and handcuffed. Most if not all of alterations that ended in arrests were initiated by police on the scene. Very few if any of the people who were arrested appeared to put up any significant resistance before being physically restrained and handled roughly by officers including some who appeared to be in a rage.

The Society of Professional Journalists condemned the Abbott-directed police response after a television photographer from the Fox affiliate in Austin was hurled to the ground and arrested for no apparent reason based on videos that emerged online in the wake of the event. A policeman shoved a 71-year-old journalist to the ground with a hand to the chest after he'd failed to hear demands to back off while taking photos of the police throwing students around.

more to come ...

DPS officers at UT protest April 24 arrested almost 50 people who can expect charges to be dropped - Capitol Inside photos








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