Collin County Jail releases detained protesters, families rejoice

Law enforcement completed all releases nearly 24 hours after troopers raided UTD’s pro-Palestine encampment

Anika Sultana | Mercury Staff The families of the detainees, students and local community members gathered at the Collin County Jail throughout May 2 as students and staff were progressively released until 4:30 p.m. at which point all individuals arrested at the protest were released

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As of 4:30 p.m. May 2, all 21 individuals arrested and detained at Collin County Jail after Texas law enforcement’s May 1 raid of UTD’s “Gaza Liberation Plaza” encampment were released. 

The arraignment process began around 9:30 a.m. May 2 and the first detainee — Associate Art History Professor Ali Asgar Alibhai — was released at 11:40 a.m, with the second detainee following seven minutes later. After the first two releases, Collin County Jail took over two hours to release any more detainees. One family member per arrested individual was allowed into the jail lobby starting 9:15 a.m. for the arraignment proceedings. Police stopped camerapeople from local news outlets from entering the lobby of the County Jail to livestream the arraignment.  

Marwa Elbially, a volunteer attorney present at the jail demonstration and unaffiliated with the lawyers representing the 21 arrested protesters, said that arrests for misdemeanors are usually handled through attorney appearance bonds, which would have released the protesters a few hours after their arrest. However, Elbially said a standing order from Collin County Magistrate Lisa Bronchetti prevented attorneys from filing appearance bonds for Class B Criminal Trespass, the charge levied against the 21 arrested individuals. Without the appearance bond, releasing those arrested is mandatory only after arraignment, which must occur within 24 hours of arrest. 

“All these kids have clean records, yet [they are charged with] a Class B misdemeanor,” Elbially said. “[Bronchetti] has no basis to hold them, to refuse bonds.”  

State and local police forces raided the encampment at 4 p.m. May 1, less than 12 hours after Students for Justice in Palestine members constructed it in the Chess Plaza. Police tore through the encampment’s walls and officers demanded protesters to leave or face arrest. Those arrested included three UTD professors, nine confirmed students, one UTD alum and eight community members. Concerned Comets, families of the detained and local activists started protesting at Collin County Jail at 7 p.m. May 1 and continued throughout the night. Protesters sang, chanted, drew with chalk and prayed while waiting for the detainees’ release. By 9 a.m. May 2, roughly 50 protesters remained from May 1’s initial crowd of 150. 

Alibhai said law enforcement shackled the hands, feet and waists of arrested protesters before transporting them to jail in police vans. When the detainees arrived at the jail facility, Alibhai said they saw officers with large weaponry such as flexible baton rounds and grenade launchers equipped with tear gas. 

“[The officers] were all … intimidating them [college-age detainees] when we got here, right when we were put in holding,” Alibhai said. “I will say that not all of the staff that was here at Collin County was horrific. In fact, most of the people were actually very sweet, very nice to let our students pray. They even asked our students if they needed hijabs … They were very kind to us.” 

While held at the facility, Alibhai said he and other encampment detainees bonded with the other inmates. While awaiting release, Alibhai and detainees shared stories and information about how they were detained and the backdrop of their arrests with their fellow inmates, particularly making connections over the injustice, which had brought many innocents to the jail. 

“We did not feel danger from any of the inmates,” Alibhai said. “We actually only felt love and compassion even though people are stripped from everything like their freedom, we saw glimpses of beautiful humanity. And that’s the same thing I saw at the encampment from the outside.”  

Demonstrators waiting outside the jail welcomed each detainee’s release with loud cheers. Community leaders led demonstrators in shouting the takbir — a celebratory Islamic call and response — while detainees’ family members, who waited near the jail’s lobby doors since the arraignment began, rushed to embrace their loved ones. Throughout the morning, chant leaders updated demonstrators on the arraignment’s progress and assured waiting families that demonstration organizers had enough money to pay every arrested individual’s bond. The demonstration dispersed after the final detainee was released.  

UTD President Richard Benson released a statement over four hours after law enforcement started dismantling the encampment May 1. In his statement, Benson said UTD is a “strong advocate for the constitutional right to free speech,” and that arrests were made because the encampment disrupted foot traffic near Chess Plaza. The Mercury has reached out to the Office of the President for further details and has not received a response as of publication.  

Concerned UTD faculty created a petition May 3 demanding university leadership drop legal charges against everyone arrested at the encampment, ensure student activists are not punished and affirm detained faculty will face no professional repercussions. The petition is available for all faculty members to co-sign. As of 12:00 p.m. May 10, 109 faculty members have signed the petition. Ravi Prakash, speaker of the Academic Senate, said Benson blocked him from emailing faculty about the encampment, arrests and petition. Over 1,300 UTD alumni signed a similar petition calling for charges to be dropped against the arrested. The Academic Senate officially passed a motion on May 10 expressing the petition’s sentiment.  

The same day, Student Government released a letter condemning police violence against protesters, expressing solidarity with those arrested and reaffirming its demand for UTD to support a permanent cease-fire in Gaza. SG President Devin Schwartz, Vice President Debopreeta Bhattacharya, the current Executive Committee and over nine different former presidents and vice presidents signed the letter. 

The Islamic Association of North Texas also published a letter May 3 demanding city leaders and institutions — including Richardson PD, Allen PD and the Collin County Magistrate — justify their use of force and prove that detainees were treated humanely and fairly. Twenty-seven other businesses and community and religious organizations co-signed the letter.  

“The horrible thing is that I don’t believe that any of this had to happen, right?” Alibhai said. “Like our students protesting, why would you have people in military uniform and with military equipment intimidate and come to hit the children? That was the final straw for me. I told my colleagues that I am here and that I will always protect my students like I did. I have no regrets, if I had to do this for my students again, then I would.” 


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  • Collin County at its finest discrimination and wrongful arrest because they get to determine who’s right and who’s wrong in a situation.egotistical, self loathing system I would like to say good ole boy system but ain’t nothing good about Collin County..and The DAs office..WOW I don’t know what info the Judges get or if they know what kinda lies their officers tell them or write in reports leaving out evidence. Or the DA drops off what they need to convince for a conviction..note this tho make sure you get every body cam cars ECT..for every incident… They will figure out a way to lose it..or put it in offering a deal saying they have all this evidence telling you you can never pull it up again.. because they know either they don’t have it or they know evidence was against them..Note this county will file charges even if they know your not guilty .

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