San Marcos, TX – Over 50 Texas State University (TSU) students held a sit-in in the university’s student center building to demand police sensitivity training, after the recent arrest of a student who stole another student’s “Make America Great Again” hat (video below).
“Part of it is just us feeling like the need to react immediately,” Black Art Association and Pan-African Action Committee administrative assistant TeraLynn Steele told The University Star.
“I think we were all just pissed and angry and in more of an exhaustion sort of manner," Steele said. "This was fear, this was pain, this was hurt.”
The controversy began on May 1, when a group of TSU students gathered at a location on campus where the Texas Nomads SAR, a conservative biker group, was scheduled to stage a protest, The Washington Times reported.
The bikers’ demonstration never materialized.
TSU freshman “Tyler M.” said that he and his friends encountered the leftist counter-protesters and began speaking with them, Campus Reform reported.
"Again, none of our conservative people were ever instigating anything," Tyler told the paper. "I can guarantee that. No one was ever yelling or shouting over people. We were all very patient."
But as he attempted to speak with members of the group, someone took offense to the “Make America Great Again” hat he was wearing.
“That’s when I felt someone kind of come up behind me and…lift it up, and try to run away,” he told Campus Reform.
Tyler chased after the thief, and grabbed a hold of her backpack.
“As soon as I got out of the crowd, I let go of her bag and I came up beside her and I said, ‘Can you please give me back my hat?’” he recounted.
That’s when police intervened and began speaking with him and the woman who was still in possession of his stolen hat.
Cell phone footage showed the student as she tossed the hat onto the ground and kicked it.
“Shut the f--k up!” she yelled, as Tyler went to retrieve his hat from the ground.
People suddenly began screaming behind him, and he turned around to find the officers placing the woman and a masked person into handcuffs, he told Campus Reform.
“Don’t f--king touch her!” another woman screamed and wailed, as she circled around the officers.
“If that’s not white privilege, I don’t know what the f--k is!” another woman yelled.
After Tyler confirmed that he wanted to pursue charges over the attack, police asked him to accompany them to the station, video footage showed.
Other students followed as Tyler and the two people that had been arrested were led away.
But as they walked through a building, a wailing bystander lashed out at Tyler, and appeared to shove him or grab for his phone, the video showed.
“Why are you here?” she screamed at him hysterically. “Get out! Why are you here? You f--king racist -ss piece of s--t!”
“You’re escalating the situation,” another woman told him.
Once inside the lobby of the police station, a uniformed officer ended up in an abrupt altercation with a woman wearing a bandana over her face, the video showed.
She appeared to try to push past the officer, who told her she could not come any further into the building.
“Don’t f--king touch me!” she screamed, as she bumped into his chest with her own.
Two other officers rushed in to subdue the irate woman, who demanded to know what crime she was suspected of committing.
“Articulate it! Articulate it!” she yelled.
TSU Police Chief Laurie Clouse confirmed that four students had been arrested in connection with the incident, The Washington Times reported.
“Police officers quickly interceded and directed the student to drop the stolen property,” Chief Clouse said. “The student refused multiple directives and was then detained with the intention of being given a ticket for theft. The student was later arrested after providing a false identity to the police.”
Two other students were arrested for interfering with the officers’ duties, and a fourth was arrested for disorderly conduct outside the police department.
Tyler was not among those arrested.
“Although the investigation is ongoing, the initial review indicates that the officers involved acted appropriately with the goal of preventing further escalation,” Chief Clouse said. “When a theft occurred in plain view, they were right to act. I understand it’s difficult to watch the arrests on social media, however, the officers were there to protect all of our students. We expect our students to obey the law.”
The students who were charged in connection with the incident are Tyvonte Davis-Williams, 22, Alejandra Navarrete, 22, Nazarene Freeman, 20, and Claudia Gasponi, 24, KTBC reported.
Following the four arrests, a group of 50 to 60 TSU students converged on the university’s Student Center building, and held a sit-in on the fourth floor, according to The University Star.
The occupation began at 6 p.m., and ended the following morning.
It wasn’t the first time they had taken such action, but this time was different, Steele told the paper.
“Especially because last year it was just like…we were all really angry, but it was more from a place of annoyance more than anything else,” she said.
During the most recent occupation, the group demanded that the university implement mandatory sensitivity training for campus police officers, the Blaze reported.
They alleged that officers need to do more to recognize and overcome the biases they have against minority students, and that police should better utilize de-escalation techniques.
“A lot of students felt [the sit-in of 2018] ended too early and we could’ve gotten all of our demands met because there [were] only two to three things that were met,” Pan-African Action Committee President Najha Marshall told The University Star.
“Knowing that if we stay longer, we can get more [or] all of our demands met instead of just like a few is something we’re really gonna try to apply this year,” Marshall added.
TSU President Denise Trauth said that the safety of students on campus is her “highest priority,” and that it is “very important that we have a safe and secure environment in which students feel that they can focus on their studies,” The University Star reported.
Trauth said she is working with her leadership team, her Chief Diversity Officer, and the Council on Inclusive Excellence to “address these tensions and come up with things we can do here at Texas State to lower them.”
“What is important is that we talk to each other, we come up with important and inclusive activities and that we try to heal this divide,” Trauth said.
You can watch footage of the officers’ encounter with the irate students in the video below: