Law enforcement removes encampments at UT Dallas campus, at least 17 arrested

RICHARDSON -- Protesters at the University of Texas at dallas set up an encampment on campus Wednesday morning, joining the nationwide demonstrations over the war in Gaza.

CBS News Texas/Jason Allen

The Palestinian Youth Movement organized the encampment, according to a press release. Similar to other campus protests across the country, the group is demanding that UTD divest from corporations that do business with the Israeli military. They also want the university to call for a cease-fire in Gaza, among other demands.

One student involved told CBS News Texas' J.D. Miles that the university has threatened to expel the protesters and call in state troopers to arrest those who refuse to disperse.

After protests at UT Austin led to numerous arrests earlier this week, the chairman of the UT System Board of Regents said in a statement that the university will not tolerate "any attempt to shut down or disrupt UT operations."

"Nothing is more important than the safety of our students, and we will not hesitate again to use all resources available to us to keep them safe and our UT campuses open," Kevin P. Eltife said in the statement. 

Organizers of the student protest at UT Dallas said they received a letter from the administration telling them that while they were allowed to peacefully protest, they would not be allowed to have an encampment or any sort of structures, and any attempt to stay in the camp or have structures up could put them at risk of being arrested for trespassing, and face other charges from the school.

The university said, "after the individuals refused to comply," law enforcement removed the encampments.

"UT Dallas requested assistance from outside law enforcement in an effort to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff. Individuals may peacefully assemble in the common outdoor areas of campus to exercise their right to free speech, but they may not construct an encampment or block pathways," the school said in statement.

Late Tuesday afternoon, law enforcement began mobilizing at the campus, forcibly removing encampments and making arrests. 

"Today has been a difficult day," wrote Dr. Richard Benson, the president of the University of Texas at Dallas. "Before sunrise, a few dozen demonstrators set up an encampment in the Chess Plaza area of the Margaret McDermott Mall, blocked sidewalks and impeded pedestrian traffic."

Benson said the school is a strong advocate for free speech, highlighting the recent past peaceful protests on campus. 

"The event today, however, violated institutional rules governing speech, expression and assembly, which prohibit tents, barricades and other structures," Benson said. "The UTD Police Department, with the assistance of other area law enforcement agencies, removed the encampment and made arrests after protesters were given a final, written warning to remove their encampment."

He said the dean of students will continue meeting with student groups to make sure the rules and guidelines for protests are understood. 

Twenty-one people were arrested at UT-Dallas during the encampment and must stay in the Collin County jail overnight. A magistrate refuses to see them until Thursday morning, according to Pro-Palestinian attorneys. 

The arrested are mostly students and some faculty members being held on misdemeanor charges. Lawyers said they've spoken to 15 of the 21.

UT Dallas has only confirmed 17 arrests.

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Steven Rosenbaum


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