Law enforcement officers on Wednesday handcuffed and removed at least 17 people who took part in a student protest in support of Palestine during the Israel-Hamas war on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.

More than 200 students gathered outside the university's Gregory Gymnasium at noon to demand that UT-Austin divest from manufacturers supplying weapons to Israel in its attacks on Gaza. At 2 p.m., they moved to the South Lawn, where they planned to sit throughout the day.

Officers, apparently from the Austin and University of Texas police departments, detained the protesters after telling the students that they could face trespassing charges if they did not disperse. One of the protesters was helping to organize the event. An officer singled him out and told other officers that he would be the first to be arrested.

After the protesters were taken to the Travis County Jail, authorities told the dwindling crowd that there could be more arrests if the students did not disperse.

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Dozens of Texas Department of Public Safety officers on horseback and in riot gear were present at the scene. Some were seen pushing protesters with batons. Several students were pushed to the ground.

The university sent out a warning Wednesday afternoon, asking students to stay away from the area.

State Representative Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, said the arrests were "out of control" unless there was a real threat of violence.

"In normal times when I was a student I was doing a 'sit-in' INSIDE the UT law school [with Rev. Jesse Jackson] and the administration ignored us," Hinojosa said on social media platform X.

A small crowd of counter-protesters was also present at the student demonstrations.

The arrests at UT-Austin came a day after pro-Palestinian students staged a sit-in at the University of Texas at Dallas with similar demands, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Tensions between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups have flared on US campuses in the six months since the decades-long conflict in the Middle East was reignited in horrific violence.

Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel in October, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping nearly 250 hostages. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the Israeli army has launched an operation in response, killing more than 34,000 Palestinians and wounding nearly 77,000 so far. Two-thirds of the casualties are women and children.