AUSTIN: University of Texas Police Press Charges Against Activists Two Months After Protest

Photo: Anti-Gentrification Activists Protest an event at the Blanton Art Museum in November 2019

By David Martinez

Two months after an anti-gentrification action at the Blanton Art Museum in November 2019, the University of Texas Police Department (UTPD) is pressing charges of trespassing and meeting disruption against two activists. The charges are a clear attempt to intimidate political activity on campus and across Austin, especially after the high-profile disruption of UT Professor Sahotra Sarkar’s class, a professor who has faced community outrage for his predatory behavior towards women students.

The action at the Blanton Museum took over a presentation for Self-Help Graphics, an arts non-profit based in Los Angeles, which has faced a community boycott from Defend Boyle Heights (DBH) for its alliance with gentrifiers and real estate interests. Community members held a large banner, spoke about Self-Help’s complicity in gentrification, and facilitated public discussion. The hosts cancelled the event after 45 minutes of activist intervention.

At the event, while frustrated, museum staff and the presenters themselves discouraged police action against the activists, and no one was arrested that evening. Organizers with revolutionary anti-gentrification group, Defend Our Hoodz (DOH), who helped lead the action, believe that UTPD is acting unilaterally out of embarrassment for their failure to stop the upsurge of protest on campus, particularly against predatory professors, that has gained national attention and garnered mass support.

It appears that UTPD is targeting the Blanton protest due to its lower profile, as well as the fact that the activists’ identities were not concealed. As the state seeks to remove all protest rights, activists must be ready to take further precautions in protecting themselves from retaliatory prosecution.

Although at least a dozen people participated in the protest, some even joining from the audience itself, UTPD is seeking to target two brave activists who are known as fierce defenders of their community.

While recognizing that the Blanton and Self-Help themselves may not be pressing the case, Austin’s revolutionary movement is demanding that both organizations and those affiliated with them refuse to collaborate with this political persecution, and to actively speak out against UTPD’s repression.

The charges themselves are spurious and will likely not stick. UTPD, and the reactionary state, seek to drag down activists into legal battles, to try and demoralize them as well as drain them financially.

But activists with DOH say their spirits are high, and are defiant towards the situation, although those targeted require community support to spread awareness of UTPD’s repression, and their supporters are raising funds to cover legal costs as well as any loss of work income.

Incendiary encourages readers to spread the news about this persecution and to donate to the activists here: