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Charges Dropped for Anti-Israel Protesters at UT Austin

 June 29, 2024

Prosecutors in Texas have dismissed criminal trespassing charges against nearly 80 anti-Israel activists who demonstrated at the University of Texas at Austin in April.

This decision to drop the charges against pro-Palestinian agitators has sparked criticism from UT Austin leaders and political figures alike, as Fox News reports.

Charges Dropped After Extensive Review

Prosecutors in Texas announced the dismissal of charges against nearly 80 individuals who participated in anti-Israel protests at the University of Texas at Austin. The demonstrations, which took place in April, led to numerous arrests on charges of criminal trespassing.

Travis County Attorney Delia Garza confirmed that charges against all 79 individuals arrested on April 29 have been dropped. The decision followed a thorough review of the evidence, which included body camera footage and offense reports.

Garza’s team dedicated 90 hours to reviewing the evidence before concluding that they could not meet the legal burden required to prove the cases beyond a reasonable doubt.

Concerns Over Mass Arrests

"After examining and weighing all the evidence presented, we have determined that we cannot meet our legal burden to prove these 79 criminal trespass cases beyond reasonable doubt, and they will be dismissed," Garza stated. She also expressed concerns about the large number of arrests for what she described as a low-level, non-violent charge.

Garza emphasized the responsibility of her office to pursue justice in a manner that aligns with community values and public safety interests. "We also have the responsibility to determine if pursuing any case is in the interest of justice, in the interest of public safety, and aligns with the values of this community," she added.

The protests on April 29 were not the first to result in mass arrests. An earlier demonstration at UT Austin led to 56 arrests, with those charges being dismissed the following day.

University and Political Reactions

UT Austin leaders criticized the decision to drop the charges. In a statement, the university emphasized the importance of maintaining campus safety and enforcing laws and institutional rules.

"We respect the law and are deeply disappointed by the County Attorney’s actions," the statement read. The university asserted its commitment to using law enforcement and administrative tools to ensure safety and operational continuity for its 53,000 students.

Gov. Greg Abbott also condemned the protests and the decision to drop the charges. He described the demonstrations as lawless and antisemitic, insisting that such behavior should not be tolerated in Texas.

Continued Legal Proceedings

Despite the dismissal of the criminal trespassing charges, additional charges remain pending against some of the protesters. These include charges for carrying a loaded gun, obstructing a highway, and interfering with public duty.

Among those arrested was a professor who allegedly grabbed a trooper's bike and yelled expletives during the demonstration. This individual has since been fired from their position at the university.

During the protests, demonstrators were heard chanting "Pigs go home!" and setting up tents on campus grounds. These actions contributed to the tension between the protesters and law enforcement officials.

National Context of Protests

The situation at UT Austin is part of a broader trend of protests and legal actions at universities across the United States. Last week, similar charges against protesters at Columbia University were also dropped.

The decisions to drop charges at both universities reflect ongoing debates about the balance between free speech and public safety on college campuses.

Governor Abbott has been vocal about his stance on these issues, stating, "These protesters belong in jail. Antisemitism will not be tolerated in Texas. Period."

Conclusion

In summary, nearly 80 anti-Israel protesters at UT Austin have had their criminal trespassing charges dropped after a detailed review of the evidence.

This decision has been met with criticism from university officials and political leaders, including Governor Greg Abbott, who emphasized the need for accountability and campus safety.

Additional charges against some protesters remain pending, highlighting the ongoing legal and societal debates surrounding campus protests and free speech.