Cops Off Campus activists protest exterior the UT-Austin Tower (Picture by Skye Seipp)
For years, and particularly because the Black Lives Matter protests throughout summer season 2020, justice advocates in Austin have been pushing the town to divest funds and reallocate assets from the Austin Police Division into different public security approaches. However APD shouldn’t be the one police drive that is going through activist strain.
At UT-Austin, the coed group Cops Off Campus has made a reputation for itself with extremely publicized demonstrations to take away the UT Police Division from campus. Notably, the group crashed this yr’s “Gone to Texas” freshman orientation in entrance of the UT Tower, carrying a banner that stated “College students & Staff Demand Cops Off Campus.” The group hung the identical banner from the Moody Bridge that crosses Dean Keeton Road this summer season. Following the taking pictures in West Campus on Halloween, the group has continued its protests in opposition to UT President Jay Hartzell‘s name for UTPD to extend its presence within the space.
The group is an offshoot of the communist campus group Liberation Coalition, with some members belonging to each teams. Its first demand, because the title entails, is dismantling the UTPD presence on campus; from there, Cops Off Campus additionally desires divestment from police methods typically, whether or not native, state, or federal. The UT group is a chapter of the nationwide Cops Off Campus Coalition, a self-described “abolition community” that features 60 different faculties and universities (and a few Ok-12 faculties) throughout the nation, together with Harvard, Yale, Penn, Johns Hopkins, CUNY, and UCLA.
Meghan Nguyen, inner relations director of Cops Off Campus, stated the group believes in reallocating assets from policing into housing, well being care, earnings assist, and different initiatives that tackle the basis causes of crime. “We consider that the police do not exist to offer security,” Nguyen stated. “We consider that the police exist to keep up systemic inequality with violence and with incarceration.”
About 40 college students are members of UT’s chapter, which has a hierarchy and weekly conferences. The group would not cooperate with UT administration, as they “do not actually consider in” altering the system from inside, Nguyen stated. As a substitute, it depends on exterior strain, similar to protests, to advocate for change. “We really feel just like the college actually tries to neutralize any menace to its personal establishment,” Nguyen stated. “So, we consider that in working with the college, our calls for will get much more watered down.” There are examples of group policing already at UT, Nguyen stated, with applications similar to Positive Stroll, the place volunteers stroll or drive with fellow college students at evening to make sure they get dwelling safely.
However do they assume UT will truly eliminate the police? Citing the success of activists in Oakland, the place the college board in June 2020 abolished the Ok-12 district’s 67-member police drive, Nguyen stated there are real-world inspirations for the group. “We consider it’s potential,” Nguyen stated. “It is simply undoubtedly a course of, and there is plenty of obstacles which are in our approach, together with the truth that [Gov.] Greg Abbott signed a invoice [House Bill 1900] that permits the state to punish cities that defund the police.”
Different teams with comparable views have emerged at UT, such because the Pupil Collective for Abolitionist Studying, whose founder, Sarah Campbell, stated members spend their time studying about approaches to organizing society with out police. Campbell stated it is disappointing that, within the wake of HB 1900, Metropolis Council has now given APD its largest finances ever, however she hasn’t misplaced all hope. “You have to have a very good creativeness as a result of abolition depends on collective creativeness,” she stated. “I’d say I am feeling actually good in regards to the momentum, and folks nonetheless eager to defund the police. I do not really feel like that is died down.”