SJP organizes an encampment, police arrest two students

Students march toward the UHPD office to call for divestment on Wednesday, May 8. | Raphael Fernandez/The Cougar

On Wednesday morning, Students for Justice in Palestine HTX organized an encampment at Butler Plaza in front of M.D. Anderson Library to call for divestment and put pressure on the upcoming Board of Regents meeting on May 15.

In a statement from the University, two students were arrested: one for failing to identify themselves and the other for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. 

“Students are not okay with being made complicit in genocide through being students at a University that invests in it,” said SJP representative and political science senior Reyna. “This is not something that is going to go away.” 

Students arrived early to set up barricades and tents around the fountain in the middle of Butler Plaza. The only notice of the encampment was through a social media post on Instagram where SJP renamed Butler Plaza to “Gaza Plaza.” 

The encampment was a response to the rise of student protests on college campuses. More than 2,000 people have been arrested across the nation for participating in Pro-Palestinian protests. The University of Texas at Austin, Columbia University, UCLA and the University of Chicago are just a few of the college campuses where protests have been met with police presence. 

Around 9 a.m., police surrounded the protestors at Butler Plaza and dismantled the camp in approximately 20 minutes which led students to march toward the UHPD office. 

“The police presence was very intense and was multiplying quickly as soon as the sun rose,” Reyna said. “They physically and violently tore down the encampments as students were centered in the middle of it.” 

Tents and encampments are not permitted on campus grounds in accordance with state statutes, according to the University. 

The statute the University is referring to is Texas Penal Code Section 48.05 which prohibits camping and calls it an offense “if the person intentionally or knowingly camps in a public place without the effective consent of the officer or agency having the legal duty or authority to manage the public place.” 

Protestors line up outside the Harris County Joint Processing Center. | Cindy Rivas Alfaro/The Cougar

Students then moved to the Harris County Joint Processing Center where they believed the two students were held. Protestors lined up on the sidewalk next to the building and chanted “From the sea to the river,” “Palestine will live forever” and “No more money for Israel’s crimes.” 

Police set up barricades around the area and several cars honked in support of the protestors. 

SJP plans to sit in and attend the Board of Regents meeting on May 15 to urge the University to divest from companies that provide firearms and support to Israel. 

“We wanted to show the University that students are serious about wanting divestment,” Reyna said. “There’s strong student support for divestment and that we’re willing to organize and demand it from them.” 

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