Riot police use pepper spray as dozens arrested at University of Texas pro-Gaza protest encampment

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Scores of heavily outfitted riot police descended on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin on Monday to clear out a protest encampment rallying against the Israel-Hamas war, the second time a large police presence has been called in response to students there in less than a week.

As of late Monday, campus, local, and state police had reportedly arrested about 50 people from an encampment gathering on the state university’s South Mall.

“No encampments will be allowed,” Texas governor Greg Abbott wrote in a post on X, sharing a video of riot police with batons moving towards the assembled students. “Instead, arrests are being made.”

Earlier that day, the UT police department issued a dispersal order against the protesters, claiming they could be subject to disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, riot, and obstruction charges.

As police moved in to arrest the students, officers were seen zip-tying activists’ hands behind their back, and carrying one student away whose arms and legs had been tied, as the student could be heard saying, “You’re choking me.”

Elsewhere during the protest, officers used pepper spray and what appeared to be a stun grenade to break up the crowd, further fueling the intense mood on the sweltering day in Austin.

As officers arrested encampment protesters one-by-one, students could be heard chanting slogans like, “We are being peaceful, you are being violent.”

Brian Davis, a university spokesman, told The New York Times that activists had physically engaged with and verbally assaulted Dean of Students staff who attempted to confiscate” tents and that “baseball-sized rocks” were found within the encampment.

As the afternoon wore on, students could be seen pushing against a bus full of departing police officers, throwing water and chanting, “Shame,” the Texas Tribune reports.

State police were called to campus on Wednesday of last week, resulting in another approximately 50 arrests.

The crackdown on campus in Texas follows a wave of protests and arrests across the country, as students have pushed universities to call for a ceasefire and cut ties with the Israel Defense Forces, who are believed to have killed an estimated 34,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, since the 7 October Hamas terror attacks in Israel sparked the current war. About 1,200 Israelis were killed and more than 200 kidnapped – mostly civilians – during the attacks.

At least 900 students have been arrested on US campuses this month since protests began, including high-profile clashes at Columbia University, where roughly 100 were last week, helping kick off the national wave of protests.

The outpouring of activism on US campuses has been compared to widespread campus protests — and the intense police response — that took place in 1968 challenging the Vietnam War.