Common Cause Texas Calls Out Lawmakers’ Response to UT Austin Protests

AUSTIN – Yesterday, more than 50 students were arrested on the University of Texas campus during a peaceful protest in response to the war in Gaza. Also arrested was a photographer covering the protest for Fox 7 Austin. 

News of the arrests was applauded by conservative politicians, chiefly Governor Greg Abbott who posted on X “Arrests being made right now & will continue until the crowd disperses. These protesters belong in jail.” 

Governor Abbott’s deployment of more than 100 Department of Public Safety troopers comes in the wake of an order he issued on March 27th warning university leaders to promptly adopt policies specifically crafted to limit the free speech of organizations such as the Palestine Solidarity Committee and Students for Justice in Palestine, which were named in the order. 

Since 2019, at least 10 bills have been filed by conservative lawmakers in the Texas legislature seeking to silence voices of dissent, particularly on college campuses. One filed last year specifically sought to prohibit polling places from being placed on college campuses. 

Some reporters are estimating close to 170 similar student arrests have been made at other Texas universities.  

In response to lawmakers support of the arrests,  Anthony Gutierrez, executive director of Common Cause Texas, issued the following statement:

“The right to free speech, as long as it does not cross the line into hate speech, harassment or threats, should never be infringed upon, but especially not at our institutions of higher learning.

“From attempts to prohibit polling places on campus to these mass arrests of peaceful protestors, it is clear the politicians in power in Texas are doing all they can to stifle the voices of those they disagree with.

“These punitive actions by Governor Abbott are a direct attack on students’ rights of free speech. Texas lawmakers shouldn’t support the silencing of students’ voices for protesting or punish them for speaking up for their rights.”