UT Austin anti-Israel agitators freed after governor said they ‘belong in jail’

Some of the dozens of protesters who were arrested at an anti-Israel demonstration at The University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday have been freed despite Texas Gov. Greg Abbott saying they should be locked up.

Fifty-seven people were arrested at the campus, the Texas Tribune reports, citing a Travis County sheriff’s spokesperson, while UT Austin said that 26 of those arrested were not affiliated with the college.

Abbott, a Republican, had earlier slammed the protesters who clashed with Texas Department of Public Safety troopers in riot gear during chaotic scenes. 


“These protesters belong in jail,” Abbott wrote on X. “Antisemitism will not be tolerated in Texas. Period. Students joining in hate-filled, antisemitic protests at any public college or university in Texas should be expelled.”

A small group formed outside Travis County Jail on Thursday and cheered on some of the suspects as they were cut loose, Fox 11 Austin reports. 

Criminal charges were dropped against 46 of those arrested as prosecutors said the charges lacked probable cause, the Texas Tribune reports.

UT Austin said in a statement that there was “significant participation by outside groups” pointing to the more than two dozen arrested who the college says are neither students nor staff.  

UT Austin said the protest was organized by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, which seeks to “paralyze the operations of universities across the country.” 

“This outside group presence is what we’ve seen from the affiliated national organization’s efforts to disrupt and create disorder,” UT Austin said. “Thirteen pro-Palestinian free speech events have taken place at the university, largely without incident since October. In contrast, this one in particular expressed an intent to disrupt the campus and directed participants to break institutional rules and occupy the university, consistent with national patterns.”

Democratic State Rep. Gina Hinojosa shot back at Abbott’s claims the protesters were driven by antisemitism.

“Nice try but this isn’t about antisemitism,” Hinojosa wrote on X in response to Abbott’s comments.

“This is about a war that students oppose and their right to gather and protest it. These are our kids, Governor. Stop trying to bait them to serve your political ambitions.”

Hundreds of students walked out of class earlier on Wednesday in an attempt to occupy the South Lawn on campus. As with similar protests across the country, demonstrators are calling on the university to divest from Israeli companies linked to the war in Gaza and demand that the fighting come to an end. 


The protests come as the Israel-Hamas war surpassed the six-month milestone earlier this month, which has resulted in tens of thousands of civilian Palestinian deaths. The stories of suffering in Gaza have sparked international calls for a cease-fire and protests around the world.

University of Texas at Austin President Jay Hartzell said he unequivocally defended his decision to shut down an anti-Israel protest and said he recognized that there was “a lot of emotion surrounding these events.” 

Peaceful protests within our rules are acceptable,” Hartzell said in a lengthy statement Wednesday.

“Breaking our rules and policies and disrupting others’ ability to learn are not allowed. The group that led this protest stated it was going to violate Institutional Rules. Our rules matter, and they will be enforced. Our university will not be occupied,” the president added.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, dozens of demonstrators attempted to erect a tent encampment at a courtyard at Princeton University, only for university police to break them up and make two arrests. While demonstrators took down their tents, students continued their protests by staging a sit-down on tarps and blankets at the New Jersey college.

Police were also called to Emory University in Atlanta to remove outside agitators trespassing on the school’s campus, according to Laura Diamond, assistant vice president of University Communications.

The University of Southern California (USC) announced its campus will remain closed “until further notice” following a large anti-Israel protest on Wednesday that ended with 93 arrested. The school has also canceled its “main stage” commencement due to the anti-Israel disruptions. 

Fox News Digital’s Chris Pandolfo and Andrea Vacchiano contributed to this report.