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Well, things did not go the way pro-Hamas protesters hoped at UT

Student radicals and outside agitators who had watched university administrators capitulate to mob tactics at Columbia, Yale, and other universities thought they could get away with the same antics in Texas. Boy were they wrong.

When pro-Hamas protesters descended upon the University of Texas at Austin (UT) on Wednesday, they did not have the free rein to disrupt campus life that they’ve enjoyed elsewhere. Instead, they were met with a massive show of force that should serve as an example to other schools struggling to quell unauthorized protests on their campuses.

The Palestine Solidarity Committee’s Austin chapter organized Wednesday’s event. The group called for students to walk out of class at 11:40 a.m. and then “occupy” the campus’ South Lawn until after 7:00 p.m. Protesters were to follow “the footsteps of our comrades at Columbia” while establishing “THE POPULAR UNIVERSITY FOR GAZA,” the group wrote on Instagram. It was a brazen act of lawlessness meant to take over campus so protesters could glorify terrorism and spread blood libels against the Jewish people. Any and all universities committed to keeping their students safe cannot let such things go ahead.

UT made clear beforehand that it would not let the protesters have their way. The protest “has declared intent to violate our policies and rules, and disrupt our campus operations,” UT’s Office of the Dean of Students told the Palestine Solidarity Committee in a letter on Tuesday. It added: “The University of Texas at Austin will not allow this campus to be ‘taken’ and protesters to derail our mission in ways that groups affiliated with your national organization have accomplished elsewhere.” The letter stated that students who did not comply could be suspended and arrested. UT’s line in the sand was unambiguous.

Hundreds of protestors came anyway, bringing tents in hopes of replicating the scenes at Columbia. Many assumed the university would buckle rather than make good on its warning. But UT showed commendable backbone. A small army of state troopers clad in riot gear, as well as other law-enforcement officials, were there to greet the protest. Their presence wasn’t just for show. According to the Travis County Sherrif’s Office, 57 protesters were arrested. UT took such swift and decisive action that it put down the protest within hours. This stands in marked contrast with the encampments that other schools have allowed to proliferate for days. “UT Austin does not tolerate disruptions of campus activities or operations like we have seen at other campuses,” the school said in a separate statement.

Governor Greg Abbott deserves great credit for not surrendering to mob rule. On March 27, he issued an executive order to combat antisemitism in higher education. “Texas supports free speech, especially on university campuses, but that freedom comes with responsibilities for both students and the institutions themselves,” the executive order read. “Such speech can never incite violence, encourage people to violate the law[,] harass other students or other Texans, or disrupt the core educational purpose of a university.”

Obviously the UT protest intended to do just that. Whereas elected officials in other states have hemmed and hawed, Governor Abbott acted forcefully to stop the madness. “Arrests being made right now & will continue until the crowd disperses,” he wrote on X. “Antisemitism will not be tolerated in Texas. Period.”

UT president Jay Hartzell should be similarly applauded for not going wobbly in the manner of Columbia University president Minouche Shafik. “Our University will not be occupied,” Hartzell wrote in an email defending the crack-down sent to the UT community on Wednesday night.

As of this writing, a large group of students and faculty, joined by Congressman Greg Casar, had walked out of class on Thursday to denounce the law enforcement response as well as Israel. Organizers presented to their progressive fellows a list of pie-in-the-sky demands, including UT’s divestment from “companies complicit in the Israeli genocide of Gaza,” “complete amnesty” for protesters, and Hartzell’s resignation. Good luck there. UT posted notices Thursday informing protesters that they must be non-disruptive and disperse by 10:00 p.m. We’ll see what happens, but UT knows what to do if they don’t comply.

At a time when so many institutions of higher education haven’t maintained order, it is nice to see that some still can. Protesters must face consequences when they violate university rules. Fail to impose costs, and you get chaos. Weak leaders like Minouche Shafik haven’t learned this foundational lesson.

“Don’t California my Texas” is a common refrain from Lone Star State residents who worry their new neighbors will import the progressive policies they’ve fled. This week’s events in Austin show that at the very least, Texas won’t be turned into Columbia.

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