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Charges dropped against all 57 pro-Palestinian demonstrators arrested on UT campus

Protesters participate in a pro-Palestinian walkout and demonstration on the UT Austin campus Wednesday.
Michael Minasi
KUT News
Protesters participate in a pro-Palestinian walkout and demonstration on the UT Austin campus Wednesday.

Travis County will not pursue misdemeanor charges against protesters arrested during a pro-Palestinian demonstration on UT Austin campus.

Demonstrators rallying against Israel's war in Gaza packed the south lawn of Texas' flagship university Wednesday, prompting University President Jay Hartzell to request support from state police. Department of Public Safety troopers arrived in force, along with UT and Austin police, to break up the protest organized by the student-led Palestine Solidarity Committee.

Police arrested 57 people for criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor akin to loitering. Travis County Attorney Delia Garza's office said Friday all those charges have been dismissed after a county judge found insufficient evidence to proceed.

The Department of Public Safety said Friday it is investigating a FOX 7 cameraman. An unsigned statement from the agency accuses the journalist of hitting a state trooper with his camera during the protest.

"While the department understands the need [for journalists] to be on-site, it is never acceptable to interfere with official police duties and assaulting an officer of the law — no matter the degree — will never be tolerated," the statement read.

Requests for comment sent to FOX 7 Austin went unreturned.

The protest response sparked outrage among UT students and faculty, who called for Hartzell's resignation at a second day of protests. A petition was also circulated online Thursday asking for Hartzell to be removed from office.

Hartzell said in a statement Thursday night that he requested state police help because he didn't want to see the campus "severely disrupted," alluding to the wave of pro-Palestinian demonstrations at campuses across the nation.

"We had credible indications that the event’s organizers, whether national or local, were trying to follow the pattern we see elsewhere," he said, echoing previous assertions that the demonstration was put on by people without ties to the Forty Acres.

Forty-six of the cases against demonstrators were dropped Thursday morning. Of the remaining 11 dropped Friday, at least seven people listed as defendants were also listed as students in the UT directory, according to a review by KUT and The Texas Newsroom.

The Texas Newsroom’s Lauren McGaughy contributed to this report.

KUT journalists are employees of the University of Texas, but UT has no editorial control over their reporting.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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