Autonomous Anti-Racists Disrupt UT Town Hall On Campus Climate (February ’17)

Students disrupt the townhall from within the crowd

Austin Autonomedia: Keeping Austin Criminal. 

On January 27th, UT will host its town hall on its sexual misconduct policies after months of protests and agitation against the University. This is the first time that the University has hosted a town hall in 3 years, in large part due to what happened the last time the administration tried to use the forum to quell and dispel student anger. This video and the following recap of those events will illustrate why. 

Three years ago, a series of flyers and racist graffiti from the Neo-Nazi group Vanguard America appeared across the UT campus. The flyers ranged from those imagining “a Muslim-free America” to those calling for students to report their undocumented peers to ICE, while the graffiti ranged from swastikas to the N-word. Though this was not the first round of fascist agitprop on campus, it became the most widely recognized as students across campus saw the flyers and reacted angrily. In the following days, the University fumbled its response by appealing simultaneously to “Free speech” and “dialogue,” and condemning the flyers merely for having been posted by non-UT affiliates. The town hall was at the time their latest attempt to construct a container for students’ rage, one which would allow it to wear itself out in negotiation and dialogue with the administration. 

At the time, many of the radical anti-racist and anti-fascist students on campus were organized into a coalition called ATXResists. This coalition sprung into action, publishing a statement that condemned the University’s response and called for an autonomous town hall. As they conducted outreach for their town hall, they constructed a strategy to disrupt the University’s pacification techniques and reveal the town hall for the sham it really was. They hijacked the mics at the town hall and put the University on blast while amplifying their own upcoming event, and many of them held signs and heckled the administration reps when they spouted their talking points. Despite attempts by the administrators to calm or remove the protesters, they were successful in controlling the message and tone of the event. We offer this lesson, alongside the livestream of the town hall, as a gesture towards current and future generations of students to whom UT presents the trap of a townhall, both to warn of its dangers and to show other possibilities for engagement. 

For the moment, we are not able to host the video of the townhall ourselves. While we work on that, you can access the full video on UT’s livestream archive HERE.

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