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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Photo by Photo by Abbey Santoro

The Students for a Democratic Society at Texas A&M held a peaceful protest regarding racial injustice and the removal of the Sullivan Ross statue in Academic Plaza on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 16. 

On Thursday, Sept. 16, students gathered in Academic Plaza for an anti-Sully protest led by Students for a Democratic Society
Approximately 100 patrons gathered to protest and counter-protest at the Lawrence Sullivan “Sully” Ross statue on the Texas A&M campus. Throughout the protest, animal science junior Taysia led different chants in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and calling for the removal of the highly-contentious statue of former Texas governor, A&M president and Confederate general Sully Ross. 
Having been involved in Sully protests before, Taysia said she volunteered to lead the chants. She said she believes that being a cheerleader helped to prepare her to project her voice and lead the patrons. 
“This is a cause I definitely believe in,” Taysia said. “I am also able to keep my cool. We’ve always had anti-protesters that come to every single one of these and you have to be able to keep chanting and not let any of that bother you, so I just laughed it off and moved on.” 
As a representative of the Black community and Round Table Talks, political science junior Amorae’ Shamberger briefed the crowd on systemic racism. 
“Systemic racism at this school is not something that is new, it is just now being known,” Shamberger said. “This has been happening for years and decades, but no action is being taken.” 
Shamberger said she has felt the repercussions of racism on campus during her time at A&M. 
“As a freshman, I remember searching A&M for exciting things and all I found were racist things that happened from students who exhibited racial behavior, that made it very discouraging to be proud of my school,” Shamberger said. “No student should feel that they are stuck with a school [which doesn’t] care for them. We should matter and we do matter, especially for spending our time, money and effort here.”
Shamberger said Sully being removed is the first step for A&M to acknowledge racism on campus and take a stand against Aggies who partake in racism. 
“Sully is a representation of A&M saying that they don’t care how [it is] a symbol of oppression for students of color,” Shamberger said. “They have the [audacity] to say, ‘Put a penny on him, he is love.’ I’m pretty sure he doesn’t represent an inch of love for anyone.”
A student and representative of the Black Graduate Student Association, who preferred to remain anonymous, spoke on racial profiling not only on campus but throughout the country.
“We know that racism still exists,” the representative said. “We want to make a change and do something about it. Racial profiling still exists for people of color, not just Black people, people of color.” 
The representative said people need to understand the theory that knowledge is power does not work without appropriate actions. 
“Knowledge is just not power, it is applied knowledge,” the representative said. “We need to start applying knowledge to what we know, that this issue still exists and we will do something here at Texas A&M about it.”
Black Aggie and engineering junior Mia represented the Students for a Democratic Society organization and spoke on the history of Sullivan Ross including things they believe are lesser known. 
“In honor of the true Aggie spirit, I got a story for ya Ags,” Mia said. “Lawrence Sullivan Ross and I were the same age when he began his atrocities on the Native American tribes residing in Texas in the late 1850s.”
Additionally, Students for a Democratic Society advisor and anthropology professor Michael Alvard also spoke at the protest regarding remarks System Chancellor John Sharp has made during his time at A&M.
Counter-protesters gathered to defend the Sully statue and its place in Academic Plaza. The counter-protesters also led chants, including “USA” and “All Lives Matter,” and eventually linked arms to sing patriotic songs. 
Throughout the protest, counter-protesters began to mock the original protesters’ chants and tried to play music over them before being stopped by university officials. As the protesters talked and chanted, various counter-protesters would walk up to put pennies on Sully, which is a common A&M tradition for good luck. 
History sophomore Elle Petru said she attended the protest as a counter-protester to defend her country.
“They are disparaging the lives of the people who died on Normandy, people who died at Midway, people who died in Japan, and I will defend them if it’s the last thing I do,” Petru said. “We do not keep racism alive, they’re the ones that keep bringing it up. They’re the ones who are the ones who keep it alive. Why is it so racist to say that all of our lives matter?” 
In defense of Sully, Petru said she wanted to educate people on what Sully did to help Black students with the establishment of Prairie View A&M University. 
“Should we completely disband that institution and that university? What are you gonna stand for?” Petru said. “Do you want to completely wipe away racism, like what we’re actually trying to do? They keep bringing it up. This is our country.” 
Students for a Democratic Society President and visualization junior Hannah Boyd said with A&M being a predominately white institution, people of color have had their voices drowned out by the university. 
“We wanted to protest the racial oppression and A&M’s inadequate response to student voices regarding racial oppression,” Boyd said. “Sullivan Ross is a big symbol for that — his whole life was full of atrocities and murder and hate. All of that directly contradicts [A&M’s] values and we want A&M to acknowledge that and take [the Sullivan Ross statue] all the way down, because he’s not, he’s not a good representation of what anyone should be.”
The protest ended with Mia reading of a list of the following demands the organization believes needs to be implemented in regards to the Sully statue and systemic racism in the community:

  • “Lead the student body to petition to the Texas Legislature for the removal of the Sullivan Ross statue and its relocation to the Cushing Memorial Library archives or other education and historical preservation site.

  • “Demand that the provost, chancellor and the president sign their names to this petition, showing that they are culpable and ready for change.

  • “Demand that A&M addresses their history, and that they start educating and being more transparent with the student body in regards to their past and present involvement with perpetuating white supremacy.

  • “Call for A&M to open the task force ‘recontextualizing’ the Academic Plaza to all of the student body, so that we may be informed of its happenings and contribute to changes made.

  • “Call for a shift to community policing in policing efforts on and off campus.

  • “Call for the decrease of funding to police departments, and the reallocation of these funds to social programs, education and infrastructure.”

Boyd said this is not the only protest students should expect to see, but one of many due to the nature of its importance to students in her organization and students on campus. She said Students for a Democratic Society will be working to make the campus an atmosphere of inclusivity and equality. 
“This obviously isn’t the first protest about this subject. Last summer and summers before that, and semesters before that, students have been trying to get the administration to listen to them and there’s really been no solid change with that,” Boyd said. “This protest is more of a stepping stone, this is gonna be a long campaign because obviously, A&M is not willing to change right now and we’re not accepting that, and we’re going to be working on that this semester [and] in semesters to come.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article named the student representative of the Black Graduate Student Association. The article has been updated at the student’s request to remain anonymous. 

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