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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Columns

Black Lives Matter protest for ‘Spirit of the Confederacy’ to be broken


Black Lives Matter protesters and others demonstrated in Sam Houston Park on Saturday to urge the removal of a Confederate statue. | Dana Jones/The Cougar

In the wake of Charlottesville, its riots proved to be more political than simply an exercise of the First Amendment.

A statue of Robert E. Lee was voted to be taken down in the Virginia town, and that sentiment came to Houston, as Black Lives Matter protested for the removal of the “Spirit of the Confederacy” statue at Sam Houston Park.

Compared to the violence in Charlottesville, this protest might as well have been a Buddhist temple. The BLM “Destroy the Confederacy” demonstration was a textbook example of the First Amendment protection for “the right to a peaceful protest.”

BLM has been described as a terrorist group, but no acts of terror have happened. Not only was peace displayed in the congregation as a whole — it was also clear in each interaction between the protesters.

Houston’s diversity was shown in this protest that was headlined by Black people. More important than diversity, solidarity — or diversity in action — was shown. White, Asian, Native American and transgender allies were present and all spoke on the shared grievances of oppression.

Front line protesting has always been an activity for the younger generation, especially students.

Anthony Collier, a political science major at Texas Southern, was watching as protesters took turns speaking on the bull horn. He is no stranger to the resistance, as he has been on the front lines and has acted behind the scenes on the Board of Directors for Shape Community Center Inc.

Collier was on the side calling for the removal of the statue. “We wouldn’t expect Jewish people to celebrate Hitler, and we wouldn’t expect Japanese people to celebrate Harry Truman,” Collier said. “Black citizens in Texas who pay tax dollars should not have to sit here and memorialize a statue that represents hate.”

The quick mobilization of the BLM movement calling for the removal of the Confederate statue is in direct response to Charlottesville voting to take down its statue.

“It’s definitely a response to what happened in Charlottesville. The statue should have never gone up in the first place,” Collier said.

The statue depicts an angel with a sword and a branch. Its name, “Spirit of the Confederacy,” is portrayed as angelic and brave. There is nothing brave about enslaving people and using them as the foundation for your economy. The true “spirit of the Confederacy” is hate, racism and bigotry.

The memory of the Confederacy is not brave men fighting for the preservation of a noble culture. They were fighting for the continuation of oppression.

Another student protester, an Indian woman named Manju Bangalore from the University of Oregon, studies physics and math. She spoke a testimony of her own on the bull horn condemning racism and sexism from the stand point of an Indian American woman.

“I know what racism is like,” Bangalore said. “It baffles me when other marginalized groups aren’t willing to step up for other marginalized groups because if we’re not all unified, the other side wins.”

Over the bull horn, she spoke about how her parents did not want her to go to the protest. Bangalore noted that sometimes you must risk your professional and personal life to make a difference.

“Black lives matter and when we’re not saying that, when my community specifically isn’t saying that, they’re hurting themselves and everyone here,” Bangalore said.  

Along with BLM, other politically charged groups arrived to show support. Members of the New Black Panther Party came donning vests, black bandannas and berets. They spoke on how minority and progressive groups’ movements have been segregated and that there should be more outreach.

Outreach and solidarity was the theme of this protest. Banding together under one cause and moving as a unit is the answer.

Even though Houston Police Department did a great job with keeping everything under control and peaceful, that did not mean BLM was not met with counter protesters. Each side was blocked off by separate barricades with a few police on horseback.

It did not seem that the counter protesters were unified under movement but rather an ideal of traditionalism rooted in ignorance.

The counter protesters were not as heavy as BLM.

One thing was apparent between the two sides. They both painted a picture of America. The BLM side was what America sells to foreign nations. There were young people of different ethnicities and sexes. It was full of progressive ideals: inclusivity and tolerance of difference.

The counter-protesters were a picture of America for what it is. It was homogeneous. Everyone was white and angry at the multiculturalism in a country that does not belong to them.

This was a protest that only Houston could have created. Our city’s slogan of diversity slogan was used for good, and it positively affected everyone.

The next protest, for whatever cause, is going to need the help of everyone if its organizers want it to succeed. 

Opinion Editor Dana Jones is a print journalism junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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