The Autonomous Student Network of Austin, Texas brings us news of an unfolding student occupation in San Marcos on the Texas State University.
A long-brewing conflict at Texas State University in San Marcos has burst into a display of student organizing power and collective capacity. Since the afternoon of April 11th, students have been staging a sit-in at the campus LBJ Teaching Theatre. The move came after 19 senators were absent from an impeachment hearing for student body president Connor Clegg, ensuring that he would be able to fill out his term.
Clegg was facing impeachment over his inability to represent marginalized students–particularly students of color–on campus. In February, screenshots emerged of Clegg’s instagram account featuring racist and sexist captions. This was the latest incident with Clegg, who earlier in the year had made calls to defund the student newspaper after a columnist published a controversial article criticizing whiteness.
The occupation, led in part by groups like the Pan African Action Committee, are demanding that Connor Clegg–who is still being paid for his position in the midst of these protests–resign immediately. They were prompted to take direct action when meetings with administrators and formal processes failed them. Since Wednesday, anywhere from 40 to 60 students have been occupying the theater day and night, with other students stopping by between classes.
As the occupation went on, the targets of the organizers expanded to include other senators and administrators who had enabled Clegg to remain in power. After the 18th hour of the occupation, the organizers sent out a press release that included demands for the Dean of Students & University President Denise Trauth to denounce the Student Senate’s failure to be present and take action to address the needs of students of color, such as hiring a full-time campus immigration attorney and establishing a Black Studies program. When President Trauth received these demands, she called for a town hall meeting with campus leaders–to which the students responded, “No more meetings! You know what we want.”
— alex (@alexeasley_) April 12, 2018
Since the start of the sit-in, students have been making phone calls to various administrative departments, greek life councils, and Connor Clegg himself. On the 12th, the President held her town hall meeting. As one might expect, this turned out to be nothing more than an opportunity for the administration to deflect accountability and blame the students, who had been organizing around these issues for years.
Students with the occupation spent their time following members of student government as they went to their offices in order to demand responses and accountability. As the senators tried to leave through the parking garage, students continued to follow them in an attempt to prevent them from leaving without confrontation. Police intervened and escalated the situation, threatening students with arrest and tackling them. No arrests were made, but many students were shaken and deeply upset by the experience. In videos of the encounter, you can see students huddled over the bodies of their peers refusing to let the police arrest them. The tweet thread below contains multiple videos of the events, showing that there was no escalation or violence on the part of the students. This places responsibility for the violence in the hands of the administration, student government, and the pigs they command to do their bidding.
#TXSTSITIN students follow Matthew Barzilla and Jackie (VP of @txstSG ) to the parking garage and are taken down by UPD. No arrests were made, though a few leaders walk away with scrapes. #txst @txst #BoycottTXST pic.twitter.com/ABDVrC2XZT
— Expose TXST (@ExposeTxst) April 12, 2018
In the midst of all of this, the students have received support from their classmates and professors. The sit-in has been using donations and collective resources to ensure everyone has food, blankets, emotional support, and more. As a community, they have determined agreed upon guidelines for the space that they share–a space that includes students from a wide variety of backgrounds and political affiliations. Tonight (April 13th), the Sit In will host a slam poetry night–the first formal event it will have hosted. On Thursday night, students gathered to debrief the day’s events and organize collective for the future of the sit-in. A Twitter page named Expose TXST has been sharing testimony from various protestors explaining their reasons for joining
— Camelia Juarez (@CameliaJuarez) April 12, 2018
Meanwhile, reactionary forces have been out in force on campus as well. In addition to the repressive police, students spotted some of the senators who skipped the impeachment hearing tabling on campus for Turning Point USA. Tabling with them was none other than Benamin Larrabee, the TPUSA recruiter who gets paid to travel around Texas and build the foundation for neoconservatism on campuses. It’s suspected, based off his Twitter bio, that he may now reside in Austin. Larrabee was most recently spotted harassing & filming protestors at UT Austin during the Israel Bloc Party Protest.
@brooklynelle campaign major is directly tied to Turning Point USA who are actively targeting universities’ Student Governments in order to increase conservative influence. Another reason why the actions taken by students in #TXSTSITIN are important #TXST pic.twitter.com/F4jz2pqx0T
— héctor (@donHecktor) April 13, 2018
The protestors have no intention of stopping their sit-in until their demands are met. Their tactics evoke parallels to the actions of students at Howard University, who recently expressed support online for the actions, as well as longer legacies of student protest at TXST stretching back to the ’60s with the civil rights and anti-war movements. At 3 PM today there will be a press conference with student organizers regarding recent events. The situation will likely continue to escalate–with student forming new connections and experimenting with new tactics–until the University is compelled to concede to their demands.