UT Students Protest Campus Carry in Provocative Demonstration

UT Students Protest Campus Carry in Provocative Demonstration

A crowd of several hundred students, faculty, staff, and curious community members gathered on UT’s West Mall today to protest the implementation of the state’s controversial campus carry law.

The rally was organized jointly by Gun-Free UT, a faculty-led anti-campus carry effort, and Cocks Not Glocks, a tongue-in-cheek sex toy protest organized by UT alumna Jessica Jin, BM ’14. Jin made headlines last fall when she began organizing the protest, urging students to carry dildos to the first day of classes. With the tagline “fighting absurdity with absurdity,” the protest is built around the idea that while obscenity laws may prohibit students from bringing a sex toy to class, the new law makes carrying a gun to class legal.

It’s unclear if sex toys are covered under the vague laws that disallow obscene displays on the campus, and UT officials have indicated that they view it as a free speech issue. In an interview with the Austin American-Statesman this week, associate vice president for campus security and safety Bob Hawkins said, “We’re not going to arrest anybody for that.”

Starting Tuesday and continuing into the rally itself, Jin and other student organizers passed out more than 4,500 dildos, the majority of which were donated by local sex shops. The atmosphere at the rally was jovial, with students and others breaking out into chants of “Texas fight!” and waving their dildos in the air whenever a speaker made a particularly emphatic point. Among the many speakers were Cocks Not Glocks organizers Jin and Ana López; State Rep. Elliott Naishtat; Austin Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo; UT professors Joan Neuberger, Jorge Canizares, and Mia Carter; and Nicole Golden of Moms Demand Action, a gun-control nonprofit.

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Bailey Holmes, a freshman psychology major and transfer student from Austin Community College, stopped by the rally after her first-ever class at UT. “I think this event is amazing,” she said. “Coming from a community college where nobody assembles or talks about these issues, I’m glad to see it. It makes me want to get involved with student government. I don’t think guns make us safer.”

Junior psychology major Elvira Nworah was using a zip-tie to fasten a dildo onto her backpack. “I feel really strongly that it’s not necessary to bring a gun to class, especially when you have class discussions that are very controversial and heated,” she said. “I grew up in Nigeria and the U.K., where guns are much less a part of the culture. My friends back home think we are crazy here in Texas. It’s strange that we even have to have a protest for this.”

Concealed handgun license-holder Jason Buckelew disagreed. Buckelew, who was wearing a T-shirt that read “NO Gun-Free Zones,” was one of a small group of counter-protestors at the event. “This is a display of pure absurdity,” he said. “I ignore gun-free zones anyway, so even if it is illegal to carry a gun, I’m still going to do it. I’m carrying a couple right now. They’re saying it stifles free speech, but they’re walking around with sex toys, so does it really stifle free speech?”

As is customary on the first day of classes, the West Mall was lined with tables where students shared information about clubs and organizations with passers-by. The protest was an unusual backdrop: a volunteer signing up students for the Texas Rowing listserv shouted to be heard over the loud chants of “Cocks not glocks.”

Alec Lucas was tabling for the College Republicans. “I think people have the right to defend themselves,” Lucas said. “Not that many students will be carrying anyway. You have to be 21 and take the required classes. I don’t expect this law to change things much.”

Aaron Logan, a junior civil engineering major, stopped by Lucas’ table. “I feel that guns make for a safer environment,” he said. “I don’t advocate for everybody owning a gun, but I do advocate for law-abiding citizens to have that right.”

UT history professor Jorge Canizares said he worries the law will affect his teaching. “It will make me think twice when I bring up a controversial issue in my classroom,” he said.

A production crew from The Daily Show was scheduled to film a segment on the protest at 2 p.m.

The protest’s organizers encouraged students to carry the dildos on their backpacks until the law is repealed. Earlier this week a federal judge denied a lawsuit brought by three UT professors to halt campus carry. The issue is now wending its way through the courts.

Editor’s note: The Texas Exes supported an opt-out provision for SB 11 in the 84th Legislature.

Photo by Anna Donlan.

 

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