Jamnesty calls for Olympic sponsor ban

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Luis Soberon performs in front of Gregory Gym Wednesday evening as part of the Jamnesty event hosted by Amnesty International. The event focused on raising awareness for those in poverty who are at a higher risk of having food and water contaminated by oil companies.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Through music and public speaking, students petitioned Wednesday night for the removal of a 2012 Olympic sponsor responsible for a 1984 tragedy.

UT’s first Jamnesty featured two speakers as well as two musical acts. The event, held on Gregory Plaza from 6 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, was hosted by UT’s chapter of Amnesty International, which is a global organization dedicated to enforcing a standard for human rights worldwide.

Jamnesty emphasized Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity Campaign, which focuses on giving voice to those in poverty who are at a higher risk of having food and water contaminated by oil companies, according to the Amnesty International website. Petitions available at Jamnesty allowed students to support the removal of Dow Chemical as a 2012 Olympic sponsor because of their direct involvement in the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, which resulted in more than 20,000 deaths and more than 200,000 affected by chemical leaks in Bhopal, India. Additional petitions moved to have Shell compensate victims of the 2008 oil spill in the Niger Delta.

French senior and Amnesty International president Anne Kuhnen said the event provided a call to action for students to become educated about issues affecting human rights.

“Demand Dignity is about social, economic and cultural rights, which are access to food, education, health care and housing,” Kuhnen said. “Jamnesty deals with those issues, specifically regarding adequate housing and the right to a clean water source.”

Amnesty International is the largest human rights organization in the world, with millions of supporters from around the globe, said sociology junior and Amnesty International treasurer Ian Bratcher.

“It started on behalf of what we call prisoners of conscience, which are people who are arrested and detained for their beliefs,” Bratcher said. “It’s spread through the years to address human rights issues throughout the world. We’re trying to be advocates for people who are kind of left behind by the system at large, and get them empowered so they can fight their own battles.”

The event featured musical performances by Robot Williams, Luis Soberon and Wise Child. Bratcher said the concert atmosphere allowed Amnesty International to reach more students in order to spread awareness even further.

“It’s mainly an awareness event,” Bratcher said. “I figured having a concert would be a good way to get people gathered around to hear about these issues. The more people we get mobilized and educated, the more we can do to change things.”

Journalism professor Robert Jensen was one of the speakers at Jamnesty, and gave a talk about the importance of corporate accountability in fighting these human right issues.

“The focus on the routine human rights abuses and environmental degradation that results from the modern corporation is crucial to understanding contemporary politics and economics,” Jensen said. “Students are right to follow that, and they’re doing it in the context of a worldwide human rights organization. It’s exactly what we should be doing at a university, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Students who were initially attracted by the musical performances were able to become interested in Amnesty International’s causes, said government freshman Nicholas Vasquez.

“You can always use music to get a point across, and now [these issues] are something definitely worth looking at for me,” Vasquez said. “I’d like to get more educated.”