On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, the University of Texas Police Department arrested three Austin anti-fascists after a group of anti-fascist students cleaned up racist graffiti outside of the Blanton Museum of Art. The Celtic cross, a widely known white supremacist symbol, had been painted on a column outside the museum in early February, and was previously accompanied by a white supremacist slogan on the building. After eight months of inaction by UT’s administration, students decided they’d had enough and took matters into their own hands by removing the hate symbol themselves.
When someone spray-painted “Black Lives Matter” on Confederate monuments in the South Mall of campus on February 10 of this year, the university washed it off within hours. Every movement for black liberation is accompanied by an opposing white reaction, and only 12 days later, UTPD discovered white supremacist slogans and Celtic crosses spray-painted outside of the Blanton. The Celtic cross, originally an ancient Irish symbol, was taken up by Norwegian Nazis during World War II and is now popular worldwide among neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members, and many other white supremacist movements. The university removed the slogans, but over eight months later, the white power symbols were still there.
After seeing the symbol on campus just over a month ago, the Revolutionary Student Front spread the word about this egregious symbol of racist violence at UT as part of our ongoing anti-fascist campaign. For the safety of our fellow students, we immediately created anti-fascist and anti-racist propaganda to alert the student body about the appalling displays of white supremacy that we found on and around campus. Many students responded with a mix of disgust, confusion, and embarrassment: How could the university let this happen? Why have they taken so long to take any action? I thought UT was supposed to be a progressive place, how could this happen here?
In response to the anger and frustration of the student body, RSF moved quickly to organize an Anti-Racist & Anti-Fascist Town Hall meeting. Over 40 students attended to share their ideas on how we as students could organize to fight white supremacy, since the administration clearly wasn’t doing it. By the end of the meeting, one of the clearest goals of the students in attendance was for the Blanton graffiti to be removed immediately. Long before the meeting was held, one person stated that they’d contacted UT’s Campus Climate Response Team, which is in charge of handling any incidents of bigotry on campus, and by this point had yet to see any action taken. In the face of such contemptible inaction, students began formulating plans for solving the problem themselves.
On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, a group of anti-fascists took up RSF’s call for action and organized to do what the administration wouldn’t. Over 15 anti-fascists, including students and community members, gathered outside the Blanton Museum. The Celtic crosses were painted over while a speech was given explaining the necessity and urgency of the action. Afterward, a large poster was taped over the paint, which read: “Anti-racist students posted this here to cover white supremacist graffiti which the university has ignored for eight months.”
Shortly after, UTPD arrested three community members who played no role in any of the painting for allegedly vandalizing UT property. Without any evidence, the pigs charged the UT Antifa 3 with felony vandalism and set their bail at $20,000 each. But earlier this year, when five students in Arlington faced felony vandalism charges for spray-painting “whites only” at their high school, their bail was set to only $2,500 each. This disproportionate treatment illustrates, plain as day, the white supremacist character of our so-called justice system.
Immediately after the arrests were made, fellow anti-fascist organizers started a fundraiser to provide financial support for the imprisoned comrades. They were able to raise over $3,500 in just one day. They secured legal representation, the bail requirement was waived, and the UT Antifa 3 were all released by mid-afternoon on October 27. But their bogus charges have not been dropped. With the cost of legal representation as high as it is, these three working-class comrades need all the support that they can get. If you can afford to help, please donate to their legal fund: https://www.youcaring.com/austinantifa-679908
The Revolutionary Student Front fully endorses and supports any direct actions taken to confront the violent white supremacist ideology that has recently reared its ugly head in Austin. It is an absolute disgrace that the university administration doesn’t care about the problem of white supremacy on campus. But it is not surprising at all, because the University of Texas is an institution that is, at its root, designed to reproduce an irrevocably imperialist, white supremacist society. Hate crimes against black students often go unsolved, while students engaging in racist attacks get away with a slap on the wrist, and the violently patriarchal and white supremacist culture of Greek life is empowered rather than attacked.
The anti-fascists recognized the administration’s complete indifference towards keeping oppressed people safe from the growth of the hate groups rising all across the country. Their actions show that it is not necessary to wait around for an apathetic bureaucracy to address the people’s pressing issues. The people themselves are capable of organizing to solve their own problems in a far more effective and timely manner.
Although the UT Antifa 3 have been released from jail, it is imperative to gather student, faculty, and community support in fighting and denouncing these false charges so they may be dropped. We must muster support from all directions to force UTPD and the university administration to confront their racist hypocrisy as well as the desperate, pathetic, and recklessly speculative nature of the charges against the UT Antifa 3, for which there exists no evidence whatsoever.
We encourage everyone to spread the word about this incident and the irresponsibility and hypocrisy with which UT has handled it, as well as the efforts to support the defense of those bearing the brunt of it. The fact that three people were held in jail for a day and are now being charged with felonies for covering up fascist graffiti that UT was perfectly content with leaving on display is outrageous and infuriating. There is no doubt that the evidence in court will prove that the UT Antifa 3 are completely innocent of the charges that have been falsely raised against them.
Now is the time to act and spread the word about this injustice. Talk to fellow students, get in touch with sympathetic faculty, and call UTPD to demand that all charges against the UT Antifa 3 be dropped. Bold anti-fascist actions such as these should be upheld and encouraged—we must ensure that this racist university is held accountable for repressing those who do right. We must ensure that justice is carried out.