Early Tuesday evening, University of Texas at Austin students and community members gathered under the shadow of the campus's iconic Martin Luther King Jr. statue. The Texas heat was beginning to relent, but fiery emotions in the wake of several violent incidents near campus brought the group together in order to speak out against what many are calling deep, lingering racism on and around campus. Organizers rallied participants at the statue, and two minority students spoke to the group about their recent experiences of being "bleach-bombed." The group then marched toward the West Campus neighborhood.
Over the past few weeks, reports of bleach-filled water balloons thrown from apartments in West Campus have gained attention and prompted a response from students in UT's minority communities who feel that these attacks are racially motivated.
Taylor Carr, a sophomore anthropology student, spoke to the group about her experience; bleach-filled balloons had been lobbed at her from a high apartment balcony as she walked through West Campus.
"It is people of color they are attacking in West Campus," Carr said. "Until we put pressure on the university to [protect] us, these events are going to keep happening."
Earlier in the afternoon, the university held a small press conference at which UT Chief of Police Robert Dahlstrom, Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly and Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Gregory Vincent briefly spoke about the university's response to the bleach-bombing incidents.
African and African-American studies senior Jamilah Beene was upset with the late notification that a press conference was to be held.
"If you want to reach out to the students, why were they were not invited to the press conference?" said Beene. "There was no notification to anybody on campus that this press conference was going on."
The march moved on toward the statue of Barbara Jordan, where yet two more students told their bleach-bombing stories and levied criticisms against recent racially-themed parties planned by other UT student organizations.
"We are finding that a lot of students do not know what is going on," said human development and family sciences senior Jamesha Chapple. "I wasn't bleach-ballooned, but because it happened to people I care about in this community, I am marching with them."
Chas Moore, a former UT student and community activist who has played a lead role in organizing current students' response, stood on the sidewalk and used a megaphone to address safety concerns and broadcast a pointed message to the group assembled on the street in front of him.
"This is not 1960," Moore said. "We are not going to be afraid to walk anywhere. We are not going back in time."