Critics lash out at Gov. Greg Abbott for journalist's arrest at UT protest

U.S. Rep. Greg Casar joined the protesters Thursday, saying that the fight for civil rights must continue.

click to enlarge A view of the University of Texas Tower in Austin. - Shutterstock / Kit Leong
Shutterstock / Kit Leong
A view of the University of Texas Tower in Austin.
Texas progressive groups and a San Antonio U.S. Congressman lashed out at Gov. Greg Abbott Thursday for the arrest of a journalist during a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Texas at Austin the day before.

Texas Department of Public Safety officers arrested a cameraman for Fox 7 Austin for criminal trespass as authorities pulled protesters from a crowd gathered at the campus' South Lawn, according to the TV station.

Although the protesters were reportedly peaceful, more than 57 demonstrators were arrested. However, as of Thursday morning, 46 of those charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence, the Texas Tribune reports.

Still, the arrest of a member of the press prompted withering criticism of Abbott's decision to order DPS to confront campus protesters.

In a Thursday statement, the ACLU of Texas called the journalist's arrest and alleged violence committed by the police an affront to democracy and constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

"When university and state officials attack free speech, they undermine the core of our democracy," the ACLU Texas' statement said. "The First Amendment guarantees people in Texas and across the nation the right to protest, including those who advocate for Palestinians. However, state leaders rapidly escalated a planned day of peaceful demonstrations by deploying law enforcement in riot gear against students and the press. Public officials don't get to forcefully suppress the voices of people they disagree with."

The ACLU continued: "Instead of trying to violently censor Texans, state officials have a responsibility to create spaces for students, staff, and faculty to express their views and engage in peaceful protest."

Progress Texas echoed the sentiments, condemning the state's "authoritarian response" to the protest.

"Peaceful assemblies have played a vital role in our democracy, from organized labor to ending the Vietnam War," Progress Texas' Hiba Faruqi, who was at UT on Wednesday, said in a statement. "Abbott's unnecessary force and the arrest of a member of the free press, without cause, is in stark contrast to the timid DPS response at the Rob Elementary mass shooting in Uvalde."

On Thursday, protesters returned to UT's campus in mass to continue calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict. There, they joined U.S. Rep. Greg Casar, a Democrat whose district stretches from the state capital to San Antonio.

"In 1960, in this place, thousands of students came together to picket on the drag against segregation," Casar told the crowd of demonstrators. "And our fight for civil rights continues here today."
Despite the criticism, both UT Austin and Abbott continue to stand by their crackdown.

In a Wednesday afternoon tweet, Abbott called for any "students joining the hate-filled, antisemitic protests at any public college or university in Texas" to be expelled.
Meanwhile, UT Austin officials warned Thursday that "coming to campus without authorization" is prohibited, and that all protesters must vacate the university's main mall by 10 p.m.

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Michael Karlis

Michael Karlis is a Staff Writer at the San Antonio Current. He is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., whose work has been featured in Salon, Alternet, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Orlando Weekly, NewsBreak, 420 Magazine and Mexico Travel Today. He reports primarily on breaking news, politics...

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