Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Students, faculty gather in solidarity with arrested pro-Palestine protesters

Manoo Sirivelu

Hundreds of students and faculty walked out of class Thursday to participate in a “teach-in” on the Main Mall in response to at least 57 arrests at a pro-Palestine protest on Wednesday.

Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine organized the event with the Palestine Solidarity Committee. The Texas State Employees Union postponed their “Stop the Purge” rally to protest recent staff layoffs — which was supposed to happen at the same time and place — to Monday. The Union said they ceded the space to Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine in an Instagram post.

Wednesday’s protest, organized by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, drew hundreds of community members, as well as state troopers and police officers to campus. It lasted approximately eight hours. Officers pushed protesters to the outskirts of the South Lawn and eventually onto Guadalupe Street before leaving.

President Jay Hartzell released a statement Wednesday evening in response to Wednesday’s protests, commending law enforcement for “extraordinary restraint in the face of a difficult situation.” The statement said that UT “enforced (its) rules while protecting the Constitutional right to free speech.”

On Thursday, community members and speakers, including U.S. Representative Greg Casar, Austin City Council member Zo Qadri and faculty members, condemned Hartzell’s response and the escalation by law enforcement on Wednesday.

“My message to the University is clear,” Casar said. “Students and faculty are not the enemy. Students and faculty are the university — we are the university. This is our democracy, and we are going to save it.” 

Mayor Kirk Watson said in a statement the University’s response to the protests was “unwarranted” and an “overreaction.”

Amy Kristin Sanders, an associate professor at the School of Journalism and Media, teaches classes about the First Amendment and protest rights. She said she attended the protest to encourage students to exercise their free speech. 

“As a tenured faculty member, I’m in a really privileged position to be able to make my voice heard and to be a role model for students who may feel like it’s riskier for them to be out here,” Sanders said. “We saw yesterday that students and journalists alike were arrested. I think that’s completely inappropriate at a peaceful protest, and it has a real chilling effect on allowing students and faculty to express their views.”

Ammer Qaddumi, a Palestine Solidarity Committee leader and the first protester arrested on Wednesday, arrived near the end of the teach-in. The crowd cheered at his appearance; two other attendees hoisted him on their shoulders while Qaddumi led the crowd in chants of “free, free Palestine.”

Jenna, a psychology senior, who asked to be referred to by only her first name, said she was disappointed with Hartzell’s statement. She said the statement implies students are a threat and that the University was happy with the outcome of the protest.

“I didn’t want to finish reading it,” Jenna said. “It really was painful to read because the way that the University statements usually are pretty vague and say ‘We stand for free speech and we want to protect the students.’ … They tried doing that but it really fell (short). Fell short is not the right word — It was an insult.”

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About the Contributor
Naina Srivastava, Senior News Reporter & Senior Photographer
Naina is a freshman journalism major from Mountain View, California. She is currently a senior news reporter and senior photographer at the Texan.