Criminal trespass charges against 79 UT Austin protesters dismissed: attorney

Travis County Attorney Delia Garza announced the criminal trespassing charges against nearly 80 pro-Palestine protesters on the UT Austin campus have been dismissed. UT Austin is not happy with the decision.

In late April, over 130 arrests were made during pro-Palestine protests that took place within a week on UT Austin's campus. 

On the first day of protests, there were 56 arrests made. The criminal trespassing charges were dropped the next day.

During another protest, 79 others were arrested. Those charges were not dropped immediately. On Wednesday, Garza said the criminal trespassing charges have now been dismissed.


"Our office received 79 cases for criminal trespass that were alleged to have occurred in relation to protests on UT campus. At the time, I voiced my concerns about the large volume of arrests on the low-level non-violent charge," said Travis County Attorney Delia Garza.

During Wednesday’s press conference, the county attorney said a team of prosecutors spent 90 hours evaluating each case, reviewing the evidence, the law, and concerns about violations of constitutionally protected rights of free speech, before a decision was made.

"After examining and weighing all the evidence presented, we have determined that we cannot meet our legal burden to prove these 79 criminal trespass cases beyond reasonable doubt, and they will be dismissed," said Garza.

"I'm very relieved for all the people arrested who did have their charges dropped. However, I think it is important for all of us who were arrested to stand together for the folks whose charges weren't dropped," said Kajso Souls, a protester whose charges are being dismissed.

Garza said any other charges that took place during the protests have not been dropped.

UT Austin released a statement saying:

"We respect the law and are deeply disappointed by the County Attorney’s actions. The University will continue to use the law enforcement and administrative tools at our disposal to maintain safety and operational continuity for our 53,000 students who come to campus to learn, regardless of whether the criminal justice system shares this commitment. Free speech is welcome on our campus. Violating laws or rules is not. Actions that violate laws and Institutional Rules should be met with consequences, not with political posturing and press conferences" 

"I think universities are a sacred place for us to be able to descend, and I feel a lot of hope in these charges being dismissed," says Souls.

UT Austin says it supports the rights of all members of its community to demonstrate and express their views while on campus, as long as they comply with institutional rules.

"I feel like there could have been another solution to allow these students to voice what they felt like they needed to voice. You know the freedom of speech, the foundation of it, was so that the government did not interfere, it was so that government does not stop speech that it doesn't agree with," said Garza.