Texas AFT, Texas AAUP-AFT Statement on UT-Austin Protests


April 26, 2024

CONTACT: press@texasaft.org  

Over the course of several hours on Wednesday, April 24, more than 100 local and state law enforcement including riot police responded violently to a peaceful protest on campus at The University of Texas at Austin, arresting 70 people, including students and at least one member of the media. Echoing earlier sentiments from concerned UT Austin faculty and the Texas AAUP-AFT and Texas NAACP, Texas AFT President Zeph Capo and Texas AAUP-AFT President Brian Evans have issued the following statements.

Zeph Capo, Texas AFT president:

“A student was shot to death Wednesday at an Arlington ISD high school. Their death barely made a blip in the news cycle, hardly registering in Texans’ collective conscience. I worry we’ve become numb to the horrors of this persistent violence, but I also know the biggest reason we’re not all talking about what happened at Bowie High School is because Gov. Greg Abbott decided to play cowboy yesterday and use a different set of students as his political props.

To be clear, we condemn any hateful speech or actions directed at Jewish or Palestinian peoples. But every Texan has a right to speak their minds, to peaceably assemble, and to protest what they see as unjust. They have a right to do that without fear of being harassed, tackled, or arrested so a politician can burnish his credentials with extremists. By all accounts, UT students at yesterday’s planned action in support of Palestinian peoples was peaceful and intended to be educational, urging their university’s leadership to take a different course. There is no excuse for the force they were met with, though there is an explanation. I worry about the real lesson they’ve learned from all this: that their lives and the lives of those they protested on behalf of are worth less than the ambitions and comfort of a powerful few.”

Brian Evans, Texas AAUP-AFT President

“The members of Texas AAUP-AFT roundly condemn the actions of the university leadership, Gov. Greg Abbott, and law enforcement this week. Like faculty across the university, we are deeply concerned for the well-being of our students. They are right to feel betrayed, both by Wednesday’s violent suppression of their rights to free speech and peaceful protests and by the university’s continued overzealous implementation of Senate Bill 17, systematically undoing years of progress in providing a welcoming and supportive learning environment for students from all walks of life.  These events are having a chilling effect on teaching and research.

Free speech and academic freedom are not contingent upon the opinions being expressed or the thoughts being explored. Attempting to silence voices you don’t agree with is no way to govern, and the actions of all involved in harassing student protesters were an alarming abuse of power. We are often told by critics of higher education institutions like ours that professors should ‘shut up and teach.’ I’m telling you that in this hostile environment, that is quickly becoming an impossible task.”


The Texas American Federation of Teachers represents 66,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.7-million-member American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.

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