The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

College campus chaos: wave of student-led pro-Palestinian protests explained

College campus chaos: wave of student-led pro-Palestinian protests explained - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

University of Texas police officers arrest a man at a pro-Palestinian protest on campus, Wednesday April 24, 2024, in Austin, Texas. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Campus demonstrations in support of Palestine erupted across the country after more than 100 student protesters at Columbia University were arrested April 18 for trespassing. The protesters set up encampments the day before, and dozens more similar encampments on college campuses followed.

Seventy-nine pro-Palestinian demonstrators were arrested April 30 on trespassing charges while protesting at the University of Texas at Austin. This was the second student-led protest at UT-Austin since a student walkout April 24 that resulted in 34 arrests by police, despite there being no signs of violence, as reported by The Texas Tribune.

The University of Texas at San Antonio also saw student demonstrations in support of Palestine on April 24. No demonstrators were arrested at this protest.

The students are protesting the war in Gaza, which came after the Hamas-led attack on Israel Oct. 7 where 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals died. Since then, the Palestinian Health Ministry has reported more than 30,000 deaths, a result of Israel’s retaliation against Hamas.

The students also have demands: “disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest.”

College protests are demanding their universities divest from companies and stocks that have ties to Israel and weapons manufacturing. This means universities would have to sell their investment stocks from those companies.

A&M-San Antonio students, faculty sign demand university denounce Abott’s executive order


In a letter from Jags for Palestine, a pro-Palestinian student organization from Texas A&M University-San Antonio, students and faculty ask university president Dr. Hector Salvador Ochoa and university leadership to “take a stand against” Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order No. GA-44.

The executive order, which was signed March 27, means to address antisemitism on college campuses. The order directs all Texas higher education institutions to do the following:

  • Review and update free speech policies to address the sharp rise in antisemitic speech and acts on university campuses and establish appropriate punishments, including expulsion from the institution.
  • Ensure that these policies are being enforced on campuses and that groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Committee and Students for Justice in Palestine are disciplined for violating these policies.
  • Include the definition of antisemitism, adopted by the State of Texas in Section 448.001 of the Texas Government Code, in university free speech policies to guide university personnel and students on what constitutes antisemitic speech.

The order also labels the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — a chant often used by protesters in support of Palestine — as antisemitic.

“This executive order dangerously conflates support for Palestinian rights and
legitimate criticism of Israel with antisemitism. Anti-semitism is hatred for and discrimination against people who are Jewish. Israel is a state actor, not a religion, and criticism of state actors – any state actors – is essential to a healthy democracy,” the Jags for Palestine letter reads.

The letter to A&M-San Antonio leadership also says Abbott’s order undermines academic freedom and free speech. That is why Jags for Palestine are asking that university leadership go against the order by “reaffirming support for academic freedom, defending the legitimacy of student organizations in support of Palestine, and, if needed, preparing a litigation team to defend the rights of their students.”

Hundreds of arrests on college campuses have taken place as police crack down on protests around the country.

List of campuses that have experienced arrests since April 17:

  • UT-Austin
  • Tulane University
  • University of New Mexico
  • Arizona State University
  • University of Colorado
  • University of Utah
  • Washington University
  • University of South California
  • California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt
  • University of Minnesota
  • Washington University
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • University of Illinois
  • Indiana University
  • Ohio State University
  • Emory University
  • University of Georgia
  • Florida State University
  • University of South Florida
  • University of Florida
  • University of South Carolina
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • North Carolina State University
  • Virginia Tech
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • University of Montana Western
  • New York University
  • Princeton University
  • Columbia University
  • City College of New York
  • Yale University
  • University of Connecticut
  • Northeastern University
  • Emerson College

About the Author

Xochilt Garcia
Editor in Chief
Xochilt Garcia is a junior at Texas A&M University-San Antonio majoring in communications. In her downtime Xochilt enjoys reading anything she can get her hands on and listening to music in all forms. Xochilt hopes to become a full-time reporter, traveling and bringing light to the stories that matter to the community.

Join the Conversation

© 2024 Jaguar Student Media | Texas A&M University-San Antonio. All Rights Reserved. All Rights Reserved.
San Antonio Website Design & Development - Backyard Studios
Join Our Newsletter

Get the Mesquite News delivered straight to you.