University of Texas at Austin administrators are reviewing an on-campus confrontation between a Palestinian student group and attendees of an on-campus event hosted by the university's Institute for Israeli Studies on Friday.
At the event, people from both sides shouted at each other. One attendee ripped a Palestinian flag from the hands of protesters, and a professor stood face-to-face with a protester. Later, the both the professor and protesters claimed they were assaulted.
Police were called to the event, but no one was arrested.
UT-Austin President Greg Fenves said the university will look to see if anyone violated school policies. Members of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee have said they will file a civil rights complaint because of the incident, saying the professor violated their free speech.
The event was supposed to be a talk by a Stanford University professor about the Israeli military. According to a cellphone video posted on YouTube, the Palestinian group marched in and said they wanted to make a short statement. An unidentified person eventually ripped a flag from the hands of two protesters. People on both sides began shouting. And a government professor identified as Ami Pedahzur stood with his face less than an inch away from the face one of the most vocal protesters. He was eventually pulled away by other attendees.
Later, in a letter posted on the Facebook page for the Institute for Israeli Studies, Pedahzur said he was standing face-to-face with the protester "in an attempt to make him shout directly at my face."
Pedahzur said he didn't touch the protester.
"Quite the contrary, his followers who surrounded him started pushing me around," he wrote. "A minute or two later they suddenly left."
Fenves said in a statement that UT-Austin supports free speech for all students.
“The freedom to engage in challenging conversations openly and responsibly is absolutely vital to what we do," he said. "Our students and faculty benefit from an environment that encourages this free exchange of ideas — and in which everyone is able to both share their views and let others do the same.”
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