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Pro-Palestinian demonstrators march near Capitol after Texas DPS closes grounds

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched near the Texas Capitol on Sunday after the Texas Department of Public Safety announced the grounds would be closed through at least Monday to ensure the safety of "persons and property within the complex."

In a statement, organizers from the Palestinian Youth Movement called the closure an "instance to repress pro-Palestine organizing in Texas." They said protesters had planned to come in from across the state and the closure put them at risk by limiting access to bathrooms and protection from the heat.

"Despite Abbott’s recent attempts to suppress student organizing at Texas universities by deploying state troopers to violently arrest protestors, the student movement and the pro-Palestine movement more broadly remain strong both in Texas and across the country," the statement read.

The demonstration marked the anniversary of Nakba, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians as Israel declared independence in 1948. Protesters again demanded an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and an end to U.S. aid to Israel. They also called for universities to divest from businesses profiting from the ongoing war.

The protesters marched near the Capitol along Congress Avenue. Around 2 p.m. Austin police arrived to assist what they called a "peaceful protest."

KUT observed one person being taken into custody by Austin police as demonstrators faced off with a line of officers after their march. Protest organizers said two participants had been arrested.

Naveen Abdelwahed with the Palestinian Youth Movement in Dallas said the group had been trying to get a permit for the event to commemorate Nakba, which it recognizes every year. She accused the state of using Islamophobic rhetoric to justify the use of force at other protests.

"We won't allow that tactic of oppression to intimidate us," she said. "We're making sure our voices are heard."

Sunday's protest was expected to be the largest pro-Palestinian demonstration in the Austin area since a protest on the UT campus last month as part of a wave of demonstrations at colleges across the country.

Protests at the university have resulted in more than 130 arrests, the firing of a professor who confronted police on campus and a felony charge for a man accused of illegally carrying a firearm at a demonstration.

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