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Students bring national movements to University

Occupy, Kony, Trayvon Martin among year's social highlights

The Battalion

Published: Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07

kony

The Battalion

The Kony 2012 movement sparked immediate controversy after becoming an overnight Youtube sensation.

trayvon

The Battalion

Students protest in front of Sul Ross statue in reaction to Trayvon Martin shooting.

As a college student, it’s easy to become trapped in a microcosmic bubble of classes, friends, tests and homework. At times, the outside world can seem like a dream or some collection of surreal events taking place on television but not affecting the viewer. 

Aggies broke through that bubble in big ways this year, throwing their own brand of support and awareness behind movements such as Occupy, Kony 2012, and the Trayvon Martin incident.

Far from the New York Stock Exchange, and with Austin representing the closest metropolitan center, Occupy Wall Street and its myriad of offshoots seemingly didn’t affect College Station and the students attending Texas A&M. A small group of students stood on the corner of Texas and George Bush, brandishing signs and information, but since the overall abatement of Occupy in the popular media, protests have disappeared. 

That changed when a group of students, along with farmers, Occupy protestors and one Austin City Council candidate took to Academic Plaza March 19. Their drive was the protest of a corporate takeover of Texas A&M’s agriculture and food production, one of the nation’s largest collegiate research facilities of its kind.

After passing out fliers and info, the gathered protestors marched to Seminis Inc. headquarters in the Centeq building located on West Campus to bring to light some practices of the local vegetable seed company Monsanto Co. In particular, the group was concerned with its use of genetically modified organisms in food and agriculture products. 

Brandishing a 100-page petition with more than 1,500 signatures, the group ordered a “cease and desist” to Monsanto, which listed their crimes including the use of genetic engineering, Roundup and Agent Orange. 

“We are going to cities with Monsanto extension offices to raise awareness of this issue that impacts all areas of life,” Austin City Council hopeful John Duffy said. 

Invisible Children’s campaign against Joseph Kony, the warlord head of the Ugandan guerrilla group Lord’s Resistance Army, ignited a social media fire that impacted A&M as well. 

Screenings of a film that showcased the story of one survivor of the black market child slavery and militancy followed by the popular YouTube clip brought out close to a hundred supporters, with several hundred more watching via Facebook. 

The national movement planned a “Cover the Night” event, informing supporters to post stickers, posters and other informational items on public places. Planned for April 20, Texas A&M decided to take part a week earlier, on April 13. 

Donations were accepted and merchandise sold for charity at the event, including a kit containing materials Aggie Activists could use during the “cover the night” event. 

“With this film going viral, people from all over the world are talking about it,” Invisible children representative Stesha Durante said. “It has definitely strengthened the awareness.” 

Critics of the movement claim that while awareness exploded across the world and on every outlet of social media and money raised and donated, little has been accomplished to actively solve the problem. 

The death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin is still causing ripples through both the social and political fields as new evidence and accusations have recently been brought to light. 

What is known is that George Zimmerman, captain of the neighborhood watch in Sanford, Fla., allegedly followed a “suspicious looking” Martin as he returned from a trip to the convenience store with a pack of Skittles and a drink. While what ensued is still hotly debated, Zimmerman ended up shooting and killing Martin, sparking a national outcry.

Martin’s hoodie, which he was wearing during the attack, and Skittles, have become national symbols of support for the murdered teen. A&M students met March 21 for a candlelight vigil that included placing bags of Skittles on the statue of Sul Ross in lieu of the traditional pennies. 

“We decided to call it the Black Youth Vigil because Trayvon Martin isn’t the first black man to die senselessly, and he won’t be the last,” said sophomore political science major Aja Holston. “So we wanted to honor those who have fallen.”

The students stated that each person has an ethical obligation to increase their awareness of the world around them and the forces that change it, and in doing so affect everyone. Their work on the Trayvon Martin movement, as well as others like Kony and Occupy, aims to add support to these forces.

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