Abbott Tramples Our American Freedoms of Speech and Assembly

UT Protest
Registered Student Group Expressed Opposition to Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

Militarized Texas DPS Made Dozens of Arrests; All Cases Declined by Travis DA

AUSTIN – On Wednesday, University of Texas at Austin students staged a walkout expressing opposition to Israel’s military campaign that has taken the lives of more than 30,000 people in Gaza, including more than 13,000 children. Leading the peaceful protest, the Palestine Solidarity Committee, a registered student group, was met by an gratuitous aggressive force, ordered by Governor Greg Abbott, including militarized Texas Department of Public Safety troopers on horseback, motorcycles and bikes.

Reports from the south mall at the UT Austin campus verified that nearly 50 individuals were taken into custody. Law enforcement should prioritize de-escalation tactics and respect the fundamental rights of protesters. Additionally, authorities must thoroughly review the circumstances surrounding this mass arrest.

Progress Texas strongly condemns this authoritarian response to constitutionally held rights and the arrests that occurred during the peaceful protest. We agree with State Senator Sarah Eckhardt, whose district encompasses the university. She said, “Our right to peacefully assemble to engage in open and respectful exchange about even the most challenging topics is crucial to our identity as Americans."

In 2019, Governor Greg Abbott claimed he safeguarded free speech on Texas public university campuses when he signed SB 18 into law. In a flip-flop, in March 2024, Abbott penned an executive order calling for Texas universities to address perceived acts of antisemitism targeting anti-war student groups, despite evidence that far-right extremism plays the largest role in anti-semitic hate in recent years.

“Peaceful assemblies have played a vital role in our democracy, from organized labor to ending the Vietnam War,” said Communications Intern Hiba Faruqi, who was on campus at the time.  “Abbott’s unnecessary force and the arrest of a member of the free press, without cause, is in stark contrast to the timid DPS response at the Robb Elementary mass shooting in Uvalde.”

“Our freedoms are on the ballot," said Communications Intern D’Angelo Colter, who was also on campus at the time. “Democracy can thrive in Texas when we elect leaders in November who are committed to our constitutional rights, and to protecting our most vulnerable, ensuring our safety during this ongoing epidemic of far-right hate.”

Progress Texas is a rapid response media organization promoting progressive messages and actions. For updates follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.