The perspectives of protesters at the University of Texas at Austin (2024)


The daily realities of the war in Gaza are what's driving protests that have spread to college campuses across the U.S. Many compare this moment...


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Disclose. Divest. We will not stop. We will not rest. Disclose. Divest.

FADEL: ...To the 1960s, when students mobilized against the Vietnam War and were met with force.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Leave this area immediately.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Strike. Strike. Strike.

FADEL: Student demonstrators against the war in Gaza say they are following in that tradition of peaceful protest as more and more college administrators call in police to disperse their demonstrations.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: I go to this school.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Let them go. Let them go.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: I have a right to be here.

FADEL: Today, we're going to share perspectives from student protesters and those who disagree with them at one campus, the University of Texas at Austin, where police and state troopers in riot gear have been called in repeatedly.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) There's no riot here. Why are you in riot gear?

AMMER QADDUMI: We feel that we can't advocate for Palestine the way we want to without facing these brutal crackdowns.

FADEL: That's Ammer Qaddumi, a Palestinian American student with the Palestine Solidarity Committee which organized many of the protests at UT Austin, demanding their university divest from manufacturers supplying Israel weapons. He spoke to us days after his own arrest.

QADDUMI: I was there trying to disperse the crowd.


QADDUMI: We want - we need everyone to disperse now to avoid arrest, please.

I turned to the officer who I'd been speaking with, and I reiterated once again, you know, our frustration that, you know, we're not being allowed to comply. And at that point, they came and arrested me.


QADDUMI: This was their first resort - was to use this brutal force to silence their students instead of trying to understand why their students were protesting, why we're calling for an end to UT's investments in the genocide happening in Gaza right now.

FADEL: These protesters call the war in Gaza a genocide. It's something Israel denies, saying its goal is to eliminate Hamas after it attacked on October 7 and continues to hold hostages and lob rockets. There is a case at the U.N.'s top court accusing Israel of genocide. The judges found the charge plausible but have not made a final ruling. Student protester Elijah Kahlenberg was injured when officers dispersed the crowds.

ELIJAH KAHLENBERG: I was pushed to the ground, and I actually ended up spraining my ankle. The police were using, at one point, flash-bangs to disperse the crowd. They were using bear mace. The means of dispersal were very violent.

FADEL: The use of force, he says, is just pushing more people to join.

KAHLENBERG: The protests expanded from beyond just the divestment campaign to one where people were coming into the protest. They saw the civil liberties of their fellow students repressed. And they said, this is wrong. I should be coming into the protest to defend the First Amendment civil liberties of my fellow students.

FADEL: Now, some students welcomed at least some police presence on campus. Jacob Sanders is co-president of the Jewish student group Texas Hillel. And he spoke with me with another member, Seth Greenwald, a UT Austin law student.

How have you felt about the protests? Jacob, why don't we start with you?

JACOB SANDERS: Overall, I've always been a huge proponent of, you have the right to protest. You have the right to free speech. It's just that with some of the speech being said, that's when it starts to become a little more alarming.

FADEL: Could you say more about what's alarming you? You said some speech being said.

SANDERS: There's been some speech on campus that a lot of Jewish students can interpret as antisemitic - chants of intifada, from the river to the sea. I feel like if students who are chanting that knew how it made us feel, I would feel a little better on campus right now.

FADEL: Seth, why don't you come in here and tell me how it's been?

SETH GREENWALD: As far as I'm concerned, when somebody's calling for from the river to the sea, I understand that for them, they mean a free Palestinian state that is free of occupation. The only chant that personally upsets me are those calls for an intifada because for me, as a Jewish student, calls for an intifada in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remind me of the violence, the stabbings, the bus bombings.

FADEL: The Arabic word, intifada, that Greenwald refers to means uprising or shaking off. And he is describing a specific period of time in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict known as the Second Intifada. Unlike the first one in the 1980s and 1990s of largely civil disobedience against the Israeli occupation, the second one in the early 2000s was a period of violence. I take this back to the protesters. Now, they say the word intifada is being politicized. They condemn antisemitism and any hate speech. And their movement includes many Jewish students like Kahlenberg. Again, Qaddumi.

QADDUMI: You know, our movement is one that calls for the liberation of Palestinian people. It does not call for violence or hate against anyone else. That's not what's going to liberate Palestine. For anyone who hears the word intifada, and they associate it with, you know, violence against a group of people - this is not a complete picture. For anyone who doesn't understand what intifada is, I think they only need to look at what's been happening across the country on college campuses, right? This is the uprising. This is people waking up - right? - realizing that the systems of oppression exist all around us, and we need to advocate against it.

And it's not violent. These are all peaceful demonstrations. These are all just college students here in the United States advocating, like we've seen college students advocate in the past against apartheid South Africa, against the war in Vietnam.

FADEL: Three of the four students I spoke to say they've dealt with specific bigotry or personal attacks for who they are and the stances they're taking. The UT law student, Seth Greenwald.

GREENWALD: I've been actively putting myself in the middle of the crowd. I was spit at twice and told to go back to Poland. Also, a friend of mine was told that all Zionists should die. And she was told to go back to Germany.

FADEL: Ammer Qaddumi, the student protest leader.

QADDUMI: We held an educational event on the history of the Palestinian struggle. We were met with three grown men who identified themselves as former IDF soldiers, who proceeded to shout, you know, derogatory remarks, curse at us. The fact that these men could just come to campus, you know, unimpeded was something that was a great cause for concern for the Palestinian student community. And UT came back with their investigation and claimed that there was no wrongdoing. So from the very beginning of this entire situation, we've been facing lack of acknowledgment of our concerns.

FADEL: And Elijah Kahlenberg, a Jewish American anti-Gaza war demonstrator.

KAHLENBERG: I've been called a self-hating Jew. I've been called a kapo, which is a Jew who sells out fellow Jews to the Nazis.

FADEL: I asked the students from the Jewish student group, Hillel, how they feel about the administration's response to the protests. Again, Jacob Sanders.

SANDERS: I agree with, you know, you have the right to protest. But when it's encroaching on other students' rights on campus, that's when it becomes an issue. And with some of the speech that was being said on campus, I do feel a bit safer with a bit of a police presence.

FADEL: And I asked the student protesters what drives each of them to keep demonstrating under the threat of academic suspension and police force.

QADDUMI: It's not demonstration for the sake of demonstration. It's protests for the children of Gaza. I think that's something that people cannot lose sight of.

KAHLENBERG: I fundamentally view the Palestinian people as part of my family. The Palestinian people have more in common with the Jewish people than any other people. And so to me, when your family is harmed, you have a duty and obligation to stand up for them.

FADEL: Those were UT Austin students Ammer Qaddumi, Elijah Kahlenberg, Jacob Sanders and Seth Greenwald. UT Austin says arrests were made because an encampment is a violation of its rules. The Texas Department of Public Safety has not responded to our request for comment.

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The perspectives of protesters at the University of Texas at Austin (2024)


How were the protest techniques used by student protesters? ›

Protestors utilized a variety of tactics to achieve their goals, including sit-ins, mass protests, strikes, speeches, and even violence. These efforts often provoked harsh responses from university administrators and the police.

What was the relationship between student protesters and the hippies? ›

Student protesters of the 1960s and Hippies were similar in they both wanted change. They differed in how change would happen. Protesters believed they could create chaos for mainstream society and government leaders until they changed policies and laws. Hippies believed a new culture was needed entirely.

What were the college protests in the 1960s? ›

What were college students protesting in the 1960s? Initially, college students protested against social injustices like poverty, the unfair treatment of African American citizens, and freedom of speech on college campuses. They later shifted their focus to opposing the Vietnam War.

Why did students protest in 1968? ›

For many Columbia students in 1968, their protest was motivated by anger over the Vietnam War — and changes to the military draft that were chipping away at students' deferments, particularly in graduate schools.

What was the student protest movement? ›

The student movement arose to demand free speech on college campuses, but as the US involvement in the Vietnam war expanded, the war became the main target of student-led protests.

How does the description of how the protesters were treated contribute? ›

Explanation: The description of how the protesters were treated in the story of the Sit-In Movement plays a crucial role in contributing to the main idea of the text. It provides insight into the struggles, hostility, and prejudices faced by the protagonists in their pursuit of equal rights and social justice.

Why are universities protesting? ›

Protests have erupted across the country as campuses grapple with rising rates of discrimination and calls for universities — and the United States — to sever ties with Israel.

Why many college students were protesting in the 1960s? ›

Originally Answered: What were college students protesting in the 1960s? Mainly, they were protesting the Vietnam War indirectly but more so the fact that they could get drafted into the military to fight it. Once the draft went away, the protests went down.

What motivated the rise of student protests across college campuses during the 1960s and 1970s? ›

Protests against the Vietnam War began to gain prominence in 1965 on college campuses and around the United States, eventually garnering national attention in the following two years. Some civil rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and James Bevel, also joined the antiwar movement.

What college did the first sit in protesters attend? ›

The sit-ins started on 1 February 1960, when four black students from North Carolina A & T College sat down at a Woolworth lunch counter in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina.

What were students protesting on college campuses in the 1960s 1970s? ›

At the University of California Berkeley starting in 1964, students protested the university's limits on political activities and free speech during the civil rights movement and Vietnam-war era.

Which form of discrimination did college students protest in 1960? ›

The Greensboro sit-ins were a series of nonviolent protests in February to July 1960, primarily in the Woolworth store—now the International Civil Rights Center and Museum—in Greensboro, North Carolina, which led to the F. W. Woolworth Company department store chain removing its policy of racial segregation in the ...

Why were the students of Columbia University radicalized to protest in 1968? ›

The Columbia protests erupted over the spring of that year after students discovered links between the university and the institutional apparatus supporting the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War, as well as their concern over an allegedly segregated gymnasium to be constructed in the nearby Morningside Park ...

Why are students protesting at Columbia? ›

Part of the protesters' demands called for more transparency of Columbia's investment portfolio to be able to fully assess the university's ties to Israel and the war in Gaza. Less than 1% of the school's $13.6 billion endowment is publicly disclosed.

Why did Columbia University students protest in 1968 aftermath? ›

There were multiple reasons. Some were protesting the university's connection to an institute doing weapon research for the Vietnam War; others opposed how the elite school treated Black and brown residents in the community around the school as well as the atmosphere for minority students.

How were protest techniques used by student protesters similar to and different from those of the civil rights movement? ›

They were also similar because of the nonviolent , peaceful way of protesting which included boycotts and sit-ins . They were different because more adults partook in civil rights protests versus student protests .

What techniques did the students on the Berkeley campus use to protest for free speech? ›

The Free Speech Movement began in 1964 when UC Berkeley students protested the university's restrictions on political activities on campus. Small sit-ins and demonstrations escalated into a series of large-scale rallies and protests demanding full constitutional rights on campus.

What were the different ways that students protested the war effort? ›

Sit-ins, forums, and take-overs of university buildings are just three examples of how students used their protesting capabilities to oppose the continuation and advancement of the Vietnam War on their campus. The University of Michigan administration was not always accepting of this kind of protesting on its campus.

How did students protest in the 1960s? ›

Mass rallies, the takeover of university buildings, and police raids against demonstrators highlighted the student revolt. The unrest at Berkeley became the scenario that repeated itself on hundreds of campuses during the rest of the 1960s. In April 1968, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Tennessee.


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