Texas prosecutor declines to charge student protesters arrested at UT Austin

University of Texas (UT) at Austin demonstrators arrested during a pro-Palestinian protest Wednesday will not be charged, Travis County Attorney Delia Garza’s office confirmed Thursday.

The prosecutor’s office said it has decided not to move forward with the 46 trespassing cases it has reviewed from the protest, citing a lack of probable cause.

“Legal concerns were raised by defense counsel,” Garza’s office said in a statement to The Hill. “We individually reviewed each case that was presented and agreed there were deficiencies in the probable cause affidavits.”

Texas state police arrested more than 50 people Wednesday as pro-Palestine protests spread across the country after Columbia University students began a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” last week.

Dozens of college campuses have now become centers of protest against the Biden administration’s response to the Israel-Hamas war, with students calling on their universities to divest from Israeli interests and urging the U.S. government to cease Israeli military aid.

The charges against UT protesters were dropped and the students released, Garza’s office said.

“We will continue to individually review all cases presented to our office to determine whether prosecution is factually and legally appropriate,” the office said.

Hundreds of students and faculty have been arrested nationwide as some universities call on local and state police to violently disperse demonstrations.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) lauded the arrests, labeling the demonstrations “antisemitic.” Jewish communities on campus were divided, with some criticizing the protests and others backing it.

Texas Hillel, the Jewish student union, called the protests “hateful,” noting they took place on the second day of Passover.

Others disagreed. “They’re not shouting anything antisemitic, they’re not harassing anyone, they’re standing on the green lawn, expressing themselves,” Jeremi Suri, a Jewish UT history professor, told The Texas Tribune.

“The appropriate response would be to ask them to be contained in an area, let them stay on the grass and let them shout until they have no voices left,” Suri added.

A group of UT professors issued a statement condemning university President Jay Hartzell’s decision to call in the police.

The administrators noted the event “was to have included teach-ins, study sessions, pizza, and an art workshop. There was no threat of violence, no plan to disrupt classes, no intimidation of the campus community.”

In response, they wrote, “we have witnessed police punching a female student, knocking over a legal observer, dragging a student over a chain link fence, and violently arresting students simply for standing at the front of the crowd.”

Saul Elbein contributed.

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