About 30 students stood in a semicircle in front of the University Co-op Friday evening with signs that said, “Our tuition, our rules,” while chanting, “Fuck the cops,” eliciting responses from passing cars from honks of support to angry screams.
The UT Liberation Coalition organized a three-hour protest to achieve several demands, including dissolving the UT and Austin Police Departments and the Texas Department of Public Safety forces on and near campus. The coalition is also asking UT to end its collaborations with the military and any compliance with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidelines.
The coalition is a student communist group that works to organize students against systemic oppressions in the U.S. such as the ruling class, said a protest organizer and a philosophy senior, who asked to remain anonymous for safety concerns.
“We don’t think state agents do anything to protect and serve us,” the protest organizer said. “Ultimately, what they do is imprison Black people, imprison the working class or poor people. (They) don’t do anything to actually solve crime … or solve any of the conditions that cause things like that to happen, such as poverty and starvation and the class division in our country.”
Protesters marched to the soon-to-be-opened UTPD satellite office at Walter Webb Hall to express dissatisfaction with its creation. UTPD established the office as part of an $8 million project funded by the UT System Board of Regents to enhance West Campus safety.
The protest organizer said the coalition is agitated that the University would use funds to build the office and wants it removed.
“If UT does not meet our demands, we will be out there in full force, getting those demands met, with even more students (and) workers on board organized,” the protest organizer said.
The coalition also works to organize students to foster communities of working-class people that band together to create change beneficial for the majority instead of the ruling class, the protest organizer said.
Plan II junior Safa, who asked to not include her full name for safety concerns, said she attended a July protest against police brutality in Austin where a car sped through a group of demonstrators.
After a protester named Garrett Foster walked up to the car, the man in the car shot and killed him, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Safa said she was only feet away from the encounter and felt shocked because it could have been her.
“The police started threatening to arrest protesters right after they had watched a fellow protester get murdered, which was another real indicator of just how cruel they can be,” Safa said.
Safa said she had to evade rubber bullets and saw various accounts of police violence at the summer protests she went to, including a child being tear-gassed. She stopped going to protests for a while after witnessing Foster’s death, but she said she attended Friday’s protest because it is crucial to keep fighting for change.
“The reason you’re there trumps your anxieties and makes it OK,” Safa said.
A neuroscience senior, who asked to not include her full name for safety reasons, said she attended Friday’s protest because she can no longer ignore the violence she sees police inflict every year.
“Stop the construction of the UT(PD) and the APD satellite office on UT that does surveillance on students, and fight back against cops on campus,” she said.