A striking graphic suddenly appeared on the Twitter feed of the Student Government general election debate on Sept. 28, catching the eyes of many people in the room as gasps of shock and whispers rippled across the audience.
The tweet, which was broadcast to audience and participants at the debate, featured the image of a police officer in riot gear being shot in the head with the caption, “Speak to cops in a language they understand.”
An anonymous Twitter user by the name of Anarchist Intifada was behind the tweet, and it was just one of a string of anti-police graphics and tweets that came from the account.
The tweet even drew a comment from one of the participants in the debate, Republican National Committee chairman Robin Armstrong, who said, “Wow, Twitter is getting brutal.”
The tweets drew attention to many of the fringe student groups active on campus, one of which is the Revolutionary Student Front, whose members were present at the debate, protesting outside beforehand.
“We do consider ourselves a revolutionary anti-capitalism organization,” said a spokesperson for RSF who wished to remain anonymous. “We can’t look to the government or the University for substantial results to problems. Change has to come from the outside.”
The spokesperson confirmed that members were tweeting during the debate, but he said he wasn’t sure if the account belonged to anyone in the group. The account features a hammer and sickle — RSF’s logo — in its avatar, and interacted with another anonymous Twitter account featuring the group’s motto in its avatar, “Don’t vote. Revolt!” Both accounts also voiced anti-capitalist sentiments throughout
The spokesperson said RSF does not condone violence against police officers in any way but is made up of members with a variety of ideologies and beliefs, such as communism, socialism and anarchism.
“As far as we’re concerned, we don’t work with the police, we don’t talk to the police, we don’t trust the police,” the spokesperson said. “Even though we support the abolition of the police, I do not think going out and killing cops is the way to do it. Cops as individuals are not the problem.”
SG president Kevin Helgren said he saw the tweets at the debate and encouraged students to be respectful of others when voicing their opinions.
“I was really disheartened by some of the tweets that came up on the screen,” Helgren said. “The idea behind a debate is to bring together people who typically fall on different sides of the political fence to engage in meaningful conversations and to express opinions in a peaceful, civil way, not to disseminate notions of hate or violence in any way.”
RSF was created this semester by the spokesperson and three other people. According to the spokesperson, the group now has around 20 members and takes an active role in addressing social problems.
“I think alternative, community-based solutions are the way to create change,” the spokesperson said. “The only reason I’m here at UT and not out with the people is to maintain good relations with my family. Capitalism forces us individually into these roles so that we either produce to the maximum amount or are forced. We want an America where all the necessities of life are given to people so they can succeed to the highest amount possible.”