Pro-Palestinian protesters on horses

Thousands of people from across the state flood the streets of downtown Austin, Texas to demand a free Palestine on October 15, 2023. Credit: Julius Shieh

“We Will Not Stop Until Palestine Is Free” – Texas Students For Justice In Palestine Respond To Abbott’s Executive Order

We see the Executive Order GA-44 for what it is—a masked, targeted attack to slow the student movement for liberation across the nation’s college campuses.

Days ago, on March 27, 2024, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott signed an Executive Order GA-44 “Relating to addressing acts of antisemitism in institutions of higher education.” This Executive Order mandates Texas universities to “[re]view and update free speech policies” to address Palestinian organizing on campus. We, a united student movement across the state of Texas, call on the people of consciousness to join us in rejecting the discriminatory and anti-Palestinian Executive Order No. GA-44 for its violation of the First Amendment rights of all Texas students to demand freedom for Palestine. We condemn the racist campaign being launched in violation of our state and federal constitutions and reaffirm our commitment to fight for the liberation of Palestine in our communities.

Governor Abbott’s Executive Order expressly targets student organizations—Students for Justice in Palestine (SJPs) and Palestine Solidarity Committees (PSCs)—in an attempt to stifle speech by intimidating students and campus administration. The Governor is aware that student-led organizing for Palestinian freedom is a rapidly growing movement across our connected Texas campuses. Tens of thousands of students have organized their communities to protest and demand that their institutions divest from Israel’s genocide. By misrepresenting pro-Palestinian demands for justice, he tarnishes the reputation of these student activists while claiming to protect student rights. When confronted with the strength, momentum, and mass support of our movement, the Governor has leveraged the highest level of state action to suppress our activism. There is no real, legal, or moral basis for their censorship. The Governor is resorting to racist misrepresentations to justify the blatantly discriminatory violation of our First Amendment. Our right to demand accountability for our institutions’ complicity in genocide and to advocate for the freedom of Palestinians is protected speech.

In the past six months, state and university institutions across the country have already waged a censorship campaign against student organizers for demanding an end to Israel’s genocide. These students have faced public condemnation and threats of de-chartering for their speech. The State’s vilification of these leaders is not short of political repression. We see the Executive Order for what it is—a masked, targeted attack to slow the student movement for liberation across the nation’s college campuses. From Florida’s illegal barring of SJPs, to Columbia University’s dismissal of hate crimes against pro-Palestine students, to George Washington University’s unjustly targeting of SJP leadership, and now Texas. United States institutions are unsuccessfully trying to quell a movement that is political, righteous, and far larger than the sum of its parts.

This violation is an attempt to distract from our true message, and what is most important right now: stopping the ongoing genocide and ending the siege on Gaza. Since early October, Israel—backed by the U.S.— has slaughtered over 32,000 Palestinians, severely injured tens of thousands of people, and is actively placing over one million Palestinians at risk of starvation and death under their siege. Israel has destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, hospitals, and holy sites, forcing Palestinians to flee to so-called “safe zones” while subjecting them to raids, kidnappings, and endless bombardment.

The Universities of Texas call on you to protect your student bodies and their constitutional rights. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that Governor Abbott will request that you violate the rights of your students and faculty. This past year alone, Abbott has demanded the end to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs at our schools—programs that are vital to the health, growth, and free exchange of ideas among our students. We implore you not to let Abbott use his power to override what you know is best for your students. Students, let us not hesitate in our efforts nor allow this scare tactic to distract us. Neighbors and community members, we ask for your support in standing against the State’s discriminatory suppression. Sign our petition today and join us in demanding that our administration reject Abbott’s demand. 

We will not let this executive order stop us. We will not stop until our people and homeland are free. We will not stop fighting against the worst colonial violence many of us have seen in our lifetimes. We will not stop pushing for the end of university complicity in this genocide. We, the undersigned Palestine solidarity organizations on campus, recognize this mischaracterization of our political organizing as nothing less than arbitrary censorship of our just movement. Take a stand in support of your Palestinian, pro-Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students by standing against the Governor’s attempt to limit speech, association, and freedom.

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