Law enforcement raids pro-Palestine encampment, arrests students and faculty

Nine students and three faculty members were among those detained as police tore down the encampment.

Surjaditya Sarkar | Mercury Staff

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Less than 12 hours after pro-Palestine student activists formed the “Gaza Liberation Plaza” encampment in UTD’s Chess Plaza, local police and state troopers stormed the event, dismantling the tents and barricades constructed throughout the day and arresting student and faculty protesters.

At 4:30 a.m., a coalition of student groups including Students for Justice in Palestine, Young Democratic Socialists of America and Rainbow Guard created the UTD Solidarity with Gaza Encampment overnight, inviting students to join them throughout the day. Three UTD professors, nine students, eight community members and one alum were arrested at 4 p.m. UTD is now the second Texas university to have the Texas Department of Public Safety intervene, following the arrests at UT Austin, which led to the detainment of over 100 people. 

Reports of state troopers heading to the encampment began at approximately 2:40 p.m. By 4 p.m., law enforcement officials from UTDPD, Texas DPS, Texas Marshals, Richardson PD and Collin County Sheriff’s Office began marching toward the encampment clad in riot gear. Officers used wire handcuffs to bind those arrested. Officers carried riot batons, assault rifles, riot shotguns, gas masks, wire handcuffs, sawblades, bolt cutters, night vision devices and grenade launchers. 

By 4 p.m., at least 60 officers from the various composite forces arrived at the encampment with roughly 30 police vehicles and armored vans parked outside SSB and SSA, when roughly 200 students were present at the encampment. Law enforcement told protesters to leave the encampment or face arrest. Eleven protesters linked arms and sat in the center of the encampment, where they were arrested. Law enforcement then began tearing down the encampment and blockading the entrances to Chess Plaza. Water, food and other supplies were confiscated and relocated using facility vehicles. Around 5 p.m, snipers were spotted on top of SSA. 

A Collin County Sherrif’s Office Deputy injured Fox 4 reporter Blake Hanson when the deputy struck him with bolt cutters as Hanson attempted to film Alibhai’s arrest. The same deputy forcefully shoved a student protester off a wall in Chess Plaza. Officers used force to arrest student demonstrators who locked arms in the encampment, throwing some to the ground before binding them with wire handcuffs and dragging the protesters into police vans. Assistant Professor of Art History Ali Alibhai said that during his arrest, officers kicked him and attempted to flip him over onto the ground.

By 5:40 p.m., a vehicle-mounted tear gas launcher accompanied by 16 officers with grenade launchers moved toward the destroyed encampment and ongoing protest. By 5:42 p.m., demonstrators began marching away from the officers and toward the Plinth, where nearly 200 protesters continued demonstrating throughout the evening. By 5:47 p.m., law enforcement vacated Chess Plaza after removing the last piece of the encampment. Protesters demonstrated at the Plinth until roughly 6:45 p.m. before moving to demonstrate at the Collin County Jail at 7:00 p.m.

From 4 to 5 p.m., approximately seven counter-protesters holding Israeli flags gathered on the outskirts of the demonstration. The counter-protesters declined to comment.

Arrested faculty include Alibhai, Associate History Professor Ben Wright and Assistant History Professor Rosemary Admiral. Arrested students include SJP President Mousa Najjar and SJP Secretary Nour Saad alongside seven other students. The Mercury has contacted the Bass School for comment regarding the faculty arrests; as of publication Dean Nils Roemer has not responded. The arrested protesters were taken to Collin County Jail.

At 7:00 p.m. UTD staff played a pre-recorded announcement in the Student Union announcing it would be closed early and requesting that students leave the premises by 8:00 p.m. On Wednesdays, the SU usually closes at midnight. At the time of publication, Student Union Director Dan Goodwin has not provided a statement. On May 2, the Administration Building was closed to students and the public.


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