40 students walkout, join 'Occupy Austin'

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Pre-med junior Joe Gailey stands in the South Mall on Wednesday afternoon as part of Occupy Austin’s campus walk. The walkout was a preview of Thursday’s protest that will take place at City Hall.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

A group of approximately 40 students met at South Mall on Wednesday at noon and held signs advertising Occupy Austin while chanting slogans like “money for jobs and education, not for wars and occupation.”

Occupy Austin student-outreach coordinator Jonathan Cronin said both social media and traditional tactics played a role in advertising Wednesday’s on-campus demonstration, called a walkout, in which student participants were encouraged to leave class in order to promote the cause. Inspired by the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests that began in New York City, activists have been organizing and preparing for the Occupy Austin protest, set to begin at 10 a.m. Thursday at Austin City Hall.

The Occupy Austin protests are based on the same message of criticizing the American financial industry through tactics similar to those being used in New York City and will continue until no longer necessary, according to the website.

Finance lecturer David Miller attended the walkout and spoke with students about how to refine their message and participate in a successful protest.

“The students at UT should use their passion and intelligence to put forth positive and creative proposals,” Miller said. “The key is to find a solution to all of these problems you are talking about instead of just listing all of them.”

Geography junior Landre Wilson said he learned about the walkout while in class and learned of the Occupy Wall Street protests from the website Reddit. Wilson said he plans to attend the Occupy Austin protest.

Kirsten Bokenkamp, Communications coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said her organization hopes to educate student protesters on their rights and responsibilities while they protest Thursday at City Hall.

“We are recommending that people document their interactions with city officials, make a record of who they spoke with and what they were told, keep copies of all permits and relevant documents,” Bokenkamp said. “We are reminding people that they are free to take photographs or videos of groups, including the police.”

Cronin sent out a Twitter announcement Sunday regarding the walkout, in addition to announcing it at a Tuesday night general assembly meeting.

The logistics and goals of the demonstration have been the focus of Occupy Austin’s general assembly meetings, which began last Saturday evening and extended through Wednesday evening.

David Ring, the representative for Occupy Austin’s local action committee, said the goal of the general assemblies is to construct a platform that reflects the grievances of people in Austin as well as support the Occupy Wall Street protests. The general assembly meetings use a consensus-based process in which the audience participates by approving or rejecting the presented proposals, asking questions and reminding the speaker to speed up their proposal. Tuesday’s general assembly meeting dealt with many issues such as organizing the supply of first aid, preparing for possible arrests during the protest, organizing transportation around the city for protesters and organizing educational presentations for people to learn about the movement.

“The process is tedious, but we’re trying to figure out why we’re all here,” Ring said. “We’re here to make a difference and to get this protest off the ground.” 

Printed on October 6, 2011 as: National protests spread to campus