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Texas State students sit-in

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Texas State students sit-in

Texas State students occupy the fourth floor of the LBJ Student Center May 2. Photo by Jakob Rodriguez

Texas State students occupy the fourth floor of the LBJ Student Center May 2. Photo by Jakob Rodriguez

Jakob Rodriguez

Texas State students occupy the fourth floor of the LBJ Student Center May 2. Photo by Jakob Rodriguez

Jakob Rodriguez

Jakob Rodriguez

Texas State students occupy the fourth floor of the LBJ Student Center May 2. Photo by Jakob Rodriguez

Jakob Rodriguez

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Organizations and activists unite to demand change from administration

Editor’s note: Carrisa Liz Castillo contributed to this article by transcribing the interviews provided.

Following the arrest of four Texas State students May 1, student organizations and university community members occupied the fourth floor of LBJ Student Center to protest the arrests and demand answers from the university administration.

The rising action of the events was predisposed by the initial counter-protest of a planned march by an outside group who initially threatened to come to campus due to a resolution put forth by Student Government. An attempt was made to ban the Texas State chapter of Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit affiliate organization.

According to a statement sent out by University Police Chief Laurie Clouse, the incident leading up to the arrest of the students started when one student took a hat off another student’s head and fled.

“Police officers quickly interceded and directed the student to drop the stolen property,” Clouse’s release stated. “The student refused multiple directives and was then detained with the intention of being given a ticket for theft. The student was later arrested after providing a false identity to the police.”

Additionally, the release states another student ran to the officers during this incident and interfered.

“After refusing to comply with the officers’ directions, this student was arrested for interference with public duties,” Clouse’s release stated. “When the students were escorted into the police department, other students followed and one additional student was arrested in the police department lobby for interference. A fourth student was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct outside the police department.”

The sit-in was organized by TXST Resistance, a cohort of students and student organizations devoted to advocating for the rights of marginalized students. This is the second case in which activism and demonstration has taken place, as the group organized a sit-in last year on April 13.

Then, protesters and organizers had occupied the space for over 48 hours. The occupation of the space was in response to the failed impeachment trial of Student Government President Connor Clegg after the Student Government Senate failed to meet quorum.

Currently, the activists were able to organize the protest, a press conference and meet with university officials in a matter of two days.

Texas State University President Denise M. Trauth responded to the arrests of the four students via video interview in which she acknowledged the tensions on campus.

“I think I should start by saying that safety of our students is our highest priority,” Trauth said. “At this time of the semester, when students are getting ready for their final exams, it’s very important that we have a safe and secure environment in which students feel that they can focus on their studies.”

Trauth mentioned she understood the underlying tensions students have and said she is meeting with her team members to bridge the divide on campus.

“I’m working with my leadership team, I’m working with the Council on Inclusive Excellence, with our Chief Diversity Officer to address these tensions and to come up with things we can do here at Texas State to lower them,” Trauth said.

Trauth said she, as well as the entirety of the university community, has a responsibility to voice concerns and address tensions in order to heal the divide.

“I think we have a real responsibility to address the divide that we see at our university and to do it in a respectful manner,” Trauth said. “We’re going to have people all along the political spectrum, but what is important is that we talk to each other, we come up with important and inclusive activities and that we try to heal this divide.”

Addressing these concerns, Najha Marshall, president of the Pan-African Action Committee and one of the sit-in leaders, said the protest is in response to the arrests and actions of Texas State administrators in not meeting the collective’s demands fully last year.

“A lot of students felt (the sit-in of 2018) ended too early and we could’ve gotten all of our demands met because there (were) only two to three things that were met,” Marshall said. “Knowing that if we stay longer we can get more (or) all of our demands met instead of just like a few is something we’re really gonna try to apply this year.”

Marshall said the power of sit-ins is the fact it provides administration members a time period to organize. Should administration team members fail to meet demands of the protesters, the group plans to mobilize with a press conference across campus and the occupied space.

TeraLynn Steele, administrative assistant for PAAC and the Black Art Association, said the sit-in was the result of the collective students feeling like they needed to react immediately. Steele said the difference between the two sit-ins was in where the incidents stemmed from.

“Part of it is just us feeling like the need to react immediately,” Steele said. “I think we were all just pissed and angry and in more of an exhaustion sort of manner. This was much more urgent. This was fear, this was pain, this was hurt. Especially because last year it was just like…we were all really angry, but it was more from a place of annoyance more than anything else.”

The group occupied the student center at approximately 6 p.m. May 2 and stayed overnight. Organizers report that while not every member represented in the cohort of students was present at the sit-in during the end of the night, the group had well over 50-60 members in the occupied space.

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