PAAC raises money for students arrested during campus protests

A+student+reacts+emotionally+with+her+hand+over+her+mouth+as+a+student+is+arrested+during+a+campus+protest.

Chinedu Chukuka

Texas State student Mena Ashwood reacts emotionally after a student arrest, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, near the Evans Liberal Arts Building at Texas State University. The arrest was a result of an altercation with counter-protesters who gathered in anticipation of the arrival of the Texas Nomads SAR.

Tania Zapien, Life and Arts Contributor

Through ongoing protests across the world for racial justice, members of the Pan-African Action Committee find themselves thinking about the protests in previous years at Texas State where students of color were arrested.

“The trauma that comes from being arrested is a lot; it’s not something that just goes away,” said Najha Marshall, a microbiology senior and former president of PAAC.

Knowing and understanding that trauma is why PAAC launched a fundraiser to assist the students who were previously arrested by the University Police Department. The fundraiser is directed toward the university in hopes it will fulfill the $50,000 donation goal and ease the financial burden placed on the students.

TeraLynn Steele, a history senior and PAAC treasurer, says she realizes the financial burden from being charged and arrested disproportionately affects students of color, which is why the fundraiser was important to start.

“Most of us do not come from an abundance of wealth,” Steele said. “So being able to have $1,000 to just shovel out in bail money, lawyers, court fees and taking off from work, we don’t have that kind of leeway.”

In Feb. 2018, over 300 students protested for the impeachment of former Student Government President Connor Clegg in response to racist and sexist posts found on his social media.

In May 2018, weeks following a student-sit in after Student Government failed to meet quorum during an impeachment trial for Clegg, students were arrested on Obstruction of Highway and Interfering with Public Duties charges.

Students link arms together in front of a police cruiser after a confrontation with the University Police Department..
In an emotionally charged confrontation with UPD April 16, 2018, several students locked arms in front of a police cruiser. Students demanded answers from the student representative being escorted after he voted not to impeach Student Government president Connor Clegg for racially his insensitive Instagram posts. (Carrington Tatum)

And a year later, word spread that a group, Texas Nomads SAR, would be on campus to protest Student Government’s proposed legislation to ban Turning Point USA, a conservative organization, from campus. Texas Nomads SAR never showed up, but tensions between students with different political beliefs and UPD were at a high. Four students of color were arrested.

A crowd of students converse and stand outside University Police Department.
Students gather outside University Police Department May 1, 2019, at Texas State University. Students gathered in anticipation of the arrival of the Texas Nomads SAR, a group that announced via social media it was coming to campus to hold a demonstration in opposition to Student Government’s proposed TPUSA ban. (Chinedu Chukuka)

Steele believes people of color do not have the privilege of receiving the benefit of the doubt in certain situations, which gave PAAC even more reasoning to start the fundraiser. She says she understands having an infraction on one’s record, regardless of how small it is, can have negative implications on the way people of color have to move through life.

Claudia Gasponi, one of the students arrested in May 2019, knows what it is like to go through those tough circumstances.

“I went [to the May 2019 protest] because I believe that white supremacy should be confronted and combatted to prevent its spread,” Gasponi said. “I lost my university job when UPD arrested me and [now] face potentially steep court and legal fees unless the university drops the charges against all of the persecuted students,” Gasponi said.

After the altercation took place, Gasponi went to the doctor, and they documented her injuries, taking photos of the multiple bruises she sustained. She says while the funds raised by PAAC could help her and those arrested with their legal fees and mental health services, it will not change the systemic issues she believes are still present at Texas State.

“I have faith in the community to provide this type of care for the students arrested and assaulted by UPD, but fundraising will not stop the university from arresting and assaulting more students,” Gasponi said.

University Police Department officers pin down and arrest student at campus protest.
University Police Department officers make one of four arrests, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, near the Evans Liberal Arts Building following an altercation with counter-protesters who gathered in anticipation of the arrival of the Texas Nomads SAR, a group that announced via social media it was coming to campus to hold a demonstration in opposition to Student Government’s proposed TPUSA ban. (Chinedu Chukuka)

A week after the May 2019 incident, Student Government held a meeting proposing legislation aimed to reform UPD and guarantee student safety. Gasponi, who was also a senator in Student Government for two years, proposed the abolition of UPD.

Although the university has made several statements following the campus protests, including a recent one claiming allyship to Black Lives Matter, Steele, Marshall and Gasponi say those statements feel empty. They believe change cannot be made if the university continues to tolerate racism and hate on campus.

“We don’t want statements anymore; we don’t want words; we want actions,” Steele said.

The Star reached out to Texas State for comment on the fundraiser’s requests and did not receive a response.

In addition to sponsoring a protest with other Black organizations at Texas State, PAAC has provided resources and information through Twitter in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. Marshall and Steele believe now is the best time to help educate people on the issues of racism.

“We are [at] the point where you just can’t ignore it anymore,” Steele said. “Everybody is being forced to reckon with the fact that this is not an isolated event and that everybody has a part in it.”

Funds raised through the GoFundMe will be equally distributed between all eight students. For more information on PAAC visit them on Twitter or their GoFundMe page.


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