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Most cases against UT-Austin protesters dropped

The Travis County attorney dropped 46 charges after 57 people were arrested at a pro-Palestinian demonstration.
Posted: 1:36 PM, Apr 25, 2024
Updated: 2024-04-25 14:36:31-04
A protester is pulled from the crowd to be arrested at the University of Texas at Austin during a demonstration for Palestinians on April 24, 2024.

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(Texas Tribune) — Criminal charges were dropped against 46 protesters arrested during a pro-Palestinian demonstration at the University of Texas at Austin, according to the Travis County attorney’s office.

Criminal trespass charges were filed against 57 protesters who were booked in Travis County Jail on Wednesday, Travis County Sheriff's office spokesperson Kristen Dark said.

A spokesperson for Travis County Attorney Delia Garza said law enforcement lacked probable cause in the 46 cases she dismissed. Probable cause is the reason law enforcement provides to justify arrests.

“Legal concerns were raised by defense counsel,” Diana Melendez, a spokesperson for the Travis County Attorney’s Office, said in a Thursday statement. “The Court affirmed and ordered the release of those individuals.”

The county attorney’s office is continuing to individually review cases presented to their office to determine whether it is appropriate to prosecute them, Melendez added.

The arrests occurred during a chaotic demonstration at UT-Austin, where more than 500 students walked out of class to demand that the university divest from manufacturers supplying Israel weapons on its strikes on Gaza.

There were no signs of violence before authorities armed with batons intervened, handcuffing students and pushing protesters back. More than 100 Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, deployed by Gov.Greg Abbott, were at the scene, in addition to University of Texas police department officers.

A Travis County sheriff spokesperson said that all 57 of the arrests were made by the UT police department. Protesters faced criminal trespassing charges, a class B misdemeanor. A spokesperson for the Travis County district attorney said he was not aware of any felony charges brought against protestrs.

Attorneys helping with jail release estimate around 80 people were arrested Wednesday, according to Nouha Ezouhri, an attorney for the Travis County Public Defender’s Office. Ezouhri attributed the higher number to the sheriff's records possibly being outdated.

As of noon Thursday, she said about a quarter of the detainees had been released, and the majority of those let out had their charges dropped.

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