Texas Students Issued Arrest Warrants After Sit-In Against Racism on Campus

Last week, as Texas State University started finals, four students received arrest warrants for participating in protests at the school’s student center in April. The university’s newspaper reported the charges included interfering with public duties and obstruction of highway. The organizers of the protest are petitioning for all charges to be dropped and for school administrators to issue statements in solidarity with the protesters.

The protests stemmed from an incident that occurred in November 2017, when Texas State University student body president Connor Clegg accused a school newspaper writer of “reverse-racism” for an op-ed they published criticizing white supremacy and white privilege. Along with Clegg’s criticism, which he issued from the student government without approval from the student senate, several racist posts surfaced from Clegg’s social media accounts. Clegg’s posts included racist comments toward Asians. He also led efforts against providing an immigration lawyer to undocumented students and gave an interview to Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Clegg’s response and posts led to student efforts to impeach him. The Student Supreme Court initially refused to allow impeachment proceedings, citing a lack of evidence until Dean of Students Margarita M. Arellano intervened to allow them to proceed. Nearly every white student senator refused to appear at the proceedings, 14 out of 41, which sparked a protest sit-in organized by student activists.

The sit-in lasted 53 hours, until the school met the students’ demands, which included removing Clegg as student government president, developing a Black studies program, adding a requirement for a diversity class to general core curriculum, hiring a full-time immigration attorney for students on campus, and the creation of a task force of student and faculty to address campus issues. On April 17, the Student Government impeached Connor Clegg from his position.

In response to the impeachment proceedings, Clegg posted a meme of Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk on his Facebook account saying “the greatest threat to western civilization is what’s going on on our college campuses today.”

Yet weeks after the protest, without any prior notification, four students have received arrest warrants for participating.

“I was honestly disappointed that the university would wait until the week of finals and a few days before my graduation to issue warrants for my arrest. That caused a lot of stress and anxiety that didn’t allow me to focus on my finals and prepare for graduation,” said Russell Boyd, a senior at Texas State University who received an arrest warrant for participating in the protest. “It was also upsetting because the university urges students to use their voice to create change, and to be inclusive to ideas and speech, but when students speak out against issues that have disenfranchised us, the university retaliates against us for doing so.” He explained the experience sends a message to current and prospective students that the university does not care about students of color.

“We don’t have an understanding of why these warrants were released other than to intimidate students from protesting against the institution,” said Claudia Gasponi, a student government senator who helped organize the protests, in an interview with Truthout. She explained the school’s administration has a record of enabling racists and white supremacists on campus. “We’ve had evidence of internal protection of white supremacists at the school. There were white supremacists caught hanging up propaganda this school year. The administration said they were going to charge these five individuals with trespassing, only to give them warnings. The university refused, up to the Texas State attorney general, to release the names of those arrested.”

That incident occurred in December 2017, but several other cases of racist propaganda being placed on campus have taken place since 2016. In October 2017, many students woke up on the Texas State University campus to a large banner displayed outside the school’s library that said, “America is a white nation,” and included the website for Patriot Front, a fascist white supremacist organization.

The Texas State University President’s Office referred Truthout to the Texas State University Police. “We had a volatile situation and didn’t want to make it worse,” Chief Jose Banales of the University Police told Truthout when asked why the arrest warrants were issued after the protests occurred. He said the protesters posed a threat to two student government senators, but when asked to explain what threats the students made, Banales said “the fear they placed those two individuals in.”