Protesters Attack Pro-Life Conference

Protesters stormed into the Austin Marriott South, where the Texas Right to Life’s annual Boots on the Ground Conference was being held. Texas Right to Life is non-profit advocacy and educational organization that opposes abortion, and its annual conference educates pro-life Texans and college students about various aspects of the pro-life movement such as abortion, medical ethics, and how to build a diverse pro-life community..

Texas Right to Life held its Boots on the Ground Conference on the same weekend as the Rally for Life at the State Capitol. This year marked the 49th anniversary of the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade. The conference hosted numerous speakers who spoke about topics including abortion, human trafficing, and in vitro fertilization (IVF). Attendees were there to get trained in the Pro-Life movement and energized for the rally, but they would find that those on the other side of the abortion have been energized as well. 

Protestors entered the hotel lobby just before noon, shouting, “Working women, give them hell; it is right to rebel. We will defend abortion rights; working women, rise and fight!”

The dozen protesters carried a sign reading: “Working women lead the fight; safe abortions are our right!”

One woman lit a smoke bomb and threw it down the hallway towards the rooms holding the conference. Outside, a portion of hotel property was vandalized by the protesters as well. Luckily no one was injured on either side. Austin Police Department responded quickly to the protest, but there were no additional problems after the attack on Saturday, and no arrests have been made yet. 

This is not the first protest at a Texas Right to Life event. In 2017, communist protesters attempted to disrupt a Texas Right to Life event, but they did not physically attack attendees like they did on this occasion. 

The attack happened as thousands of Texans were marching in support of life at the State Capitol and in celebration of the victory that the Texas Heartbeat Act has been for the pro-life cause. Texas Right to Life spearheaded the effort to pass the Texas Heartbeat Act. 

The Texas Heartbeat Act has angered many abortion advocates. It bans abortions after a heartbeat is detected in the unborn child and thus prevents many abortions in Texas from legally occurring. Since it came into effect on Sept. 1, despite numerous failed attempts to have it struck down or enjoined, the Texas Heartbeat Act has saved an estimated 10,000-13,000 lives, according to Texas Right to Life. Already states like Alabama, Florida, Missouri, and Ohio are working to replicate the Texas Heartbeat Act. 

Footage taken by Texas Right to Life and used in this article with the organization’s permission.

Fear Politics is No Longer Sustainable

People often like to think President Trump is the only major politician with a toxic “winners and losers” mentality, where if we do not try to win, then we lose. But this mentality is shared among our politicians from both parties, making us less trusting of one another and more willing to confine ourselves to echo chambers and the misinformation that permeates such places.

Many hot-off-the-press takes have rolled out ever since the Senate’s certification of the electoral votes (usually an unexciting event that garners scant media coverage at best) was briefly shut down after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol building and proceeding to vandalize, loot, and steal from the property. These takes have ranged from condemnations of the rioters’ behavior (including from world leaders) and calls for prosecution and jailing of the participants to calls to impeach President Trump a second time and encouraging his senior-level staff to resign. Some even believe that the day parallels Pearl Harbor and should live in infamy, while others have been quick to point out the differences in police treatment of the pro-Trump rioters and the Black Lives Matter protesters last summer. Still, others have lamented the worrying number of far-right extremists, neo-Nazis, crank conspiracy theorists, racists, and fringe militia groups that showed up at the rally-turned-riot. 

There is merit to all of this, but they are missing the big picture (the only big-picture take I have seen is people pointing out one of the rioters getting a Confederate flag into the Capitol building, something Confederate soldiers were unable to do 150 years ago). That big picture is something that has been bubbling under the surface of politics for decades now, and that is the tension between the haves and have-nots. The political class is not oblivious to this: politicians, journalists, pundits, activist leaders, and other political elites turn every single thing into a potential or actual catastrophe. Every election becomes “once in a lifetime” and a chance to “save our country.” Every speech given by a politician is influential. Every piece of legislation will have serious consequences. And so on and so on. 

Whether these claims have any merit is not significant. What is important is that our elites, specifically our politicians, continue to exploit our fears and pit “us” versus “them.” People often like to think President Trump is the only major politician with a toxic “winners and losers” mentality, where if we do not try to win, then we lose. But this mentality is shared among our politicians from both parties, making us less trusting of one another and more willing to confine ourselves to echo chambers and the misinformation that permeates such places. Whataboutism becomes commonplace as people talk past each other, versed in wildly different political languages. Coupled with the differences in values that people hold and the increasing perception that the “other side” wants fundamentally different political outcomes to occur, it becomes impossible to find common ground.

With this in mind, it makes sense that Trump supporters, feeling maligned by elites and that the “once-in-a-lifetime” election was stolen from their guy, would go and riot and loot the Capitol building. I am not trying to excuse the actions of the rioters (quite the opposite, I condemn the idea of mob rule as an affront to a nominally functioning political system); instead, I am offering an explanation for the behavior of a group of people whose intentions and political goals are often widely misunderstood. Additionally, it is not a defense of the beliefs that Trump supporters tend to hold. When people are made to feel like they have nothing to lose and everything to gain from engaging in criminal behavior, it is then that respect for democratic norms and republican institutions diminishes. Unfortunately, shunning the political process (in favor of “alternate” means of political participation) when one feels powerless to influence it has historical precedent in this country.

In a previous article, I discussed the centrality of violence in American politics. I think that is no more apparent than last Wednesday’s riot, and it shows how deeply ingrained violence is in our politics. Pundits keep calling the riot “un-American,” but I argue that it is who we are. This will continue unless large portions of the country finally recognize that they are protesting against the wrong people. In other words, the same reasons that pushed the Capitol rioters to act the way they did (minus the cranks) are the same reasons that motivated the Black Lives Matter protesters, the Occupy Wall Street protesters, and the Tea Party types to take action. However rudimentary, people are angry at the status quo: the national debt has gone up, cost of living has soared, student debt has accumulated at dizzying heights, lockdowns have continued without an end in sight, and most importantly, the gulf between the haves and the have-nots has widened. People have every reason to be angry, but while we are at each other’s throats, cronyists in big business and government are laughing their way to the bank. 

Violence is never the answer. Those who directly participated in breaking into the Capitol building should be punished accordingly and proportionately, being mindful not to add any more incarcerated individuals than we have to. And while the state continues to perpetrate acts of violence on Americans every day, we should recognize that private individuals and groups can do so as well. We should oppose all of it because the current state of politics is unsustainable. 

The MLK March: A Conservative Perspective

This past Monday, I did something I never thought I would do: attend a liberal march. I normally try and avoid placing myself in situations in which I know everyone present will refuse to see me for any more than my political beliefs. The idea of the legitimacy of marches in general is dubious to me, because it seems like a way to avoid discussions in favor of being the loudest. However, in the name of curiosity and stepping out of my comfort zone, I woke up early on our day off and hopped on a bus to downtown San Antonio.

Before arriving at the march, I was both hopeful and concerned for the experience ahead. I was hopeful because all of my research on the march revealed that its primary purpose was simply to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I am a fan of King’s and his messages of love and equality which stood against extreme racial injustices in the 1960s. My concern came from the recent tendency of events such as these to turn towards intersectional messages. Meaning, it would fight for every social justice cause imaginable while condemning those who don’t conform to that narrative, losing the message of King’s legacy in a slew of anger.

To my surprise, I was mostly pleased by what I saw. From my arrival to my departure, I didn’t encounter or observe any significant instances of anger or hate. Most everyone present seemed united in their efforts to keep King’s name alive and known. Save for a handful of people who were carrying small pride flags, the general mentality of the marchers was quite focused on that goal. Speakers along the march pathway played music and recordings of King’s famous speeches. Attitudes were positive, with both marchers and people standing along the streets having a generally good time. I was able to let my guard down and join the marchers.

Photo courtesy of Samantha Farnsworth

Even though I enjoyed my experience, I am still critical of the march overall. While it did serve to commemorate King’s lasting legacy, the attempt to claim that his work has gone unfinished actually diminishes the weight of what he fought for in his time. In the 1960s and before, African-American people were seen as inferior according to the law, which kept the races segregated and divided America. Though racial inequality still exists today, the issues are nowhere near as violating as they were when Jim Crow laws were in place. The fact that no successor of King’s caliber has risen to prominence is proof enough of this.

Many of the values that King advocated for during the civil rights movement are actually quite aligned with modern conservative social values. King is famously known for his dream that people would “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” King’s view on humanity is in agreement with conservative ideals of racial colorblindness and focusing on people’s ideas rather than playing identity politics. This is one of the reasons he is still so relevant today, and why society can still learn from his wise words. Additionally, King recognized that many of the problems within African-American communities are self-perpetuated and could not be blamed on anyone else, and that these issues therefore could not be solved by anyone else. The MLK march seemed to demand that issues be solved while making no practical efforts toward this goal.

Conservatives often criticize liberals for existing inside of an “echo chamber”, wherein the only intellectual input they receive comes from their own shared perspectives. While conservatives certainly recognize the importance of intellectual diversity and civil debate, we are often too reluctant to engage in what we perceive to be liberal-centered experiences. It is only by allowing ourselves to experience the world from the other side that we can legitimately justify our own beliefs while understanding and respecting the reverse.

Samantha Farnsworth and Emma McMahan at the MLK March; Photo courtesy of Samantha Farnsworth

Inaugural Alamo March for Life Draws Crowd

Trinity students participate in the Alamo March for Life. Image courtesy Tigers for Life.

On Sunday, Jan. 20, a few days before the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the San Antonio Family Association (SAFA) hosted the 43rd San Antonio Rally for Life and the first Alamo March for Life at Alamo Plaza to protest Roe and the abortion industry. The march began at Alamo Plaza, progressed to Travis Park, and finished at the Plaza. First Lady of Texas Cecilia Abbott was the keynote speaker, joined by State Senator Peter Flores (R-San Antonio) and Nathan McDaniel, representing Congressman Chip Roy (R-CD21). Fr. Will Combs of St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church led the opening prayer.

In the past, SAFA has attempted to get permits from the city of San Antonio to host the event at  Alamo Plaza but has been unsuccessful. In his remarks at the rally, Patrick Von Dohlen, president of SAFA, attributed their success this year to the legal assistance of a SAFA supporter who is an attorney. Last year, the rally took place in a grassy area off of San Pedro Avenue near Park North Drive due to scheduling conflicts with the event’s original location, San Antonio Milam Park. The march and rally drew a crowd of a few hundred.

Image courtesy Tigers for Life.

In their remarks, Flores and McDaniel emphasized their offices’ commitment to the pro-life movement. Both Flores and Roy are currently in the beginning of their first term in office. Flores was elected in a special runoff election last year on September 18 after a first place finish in the first election on July 31. Flores is the first Republican to represent Senate District 19 since the end of Reconstruction. During his time at the podium, he focused on how his Catholic faith influences his pro-life convictions.

Sen. Flores speaks to rally attendees. Image courtesy Tigers for Life.

Abbott also spoke about how her faith shaped her views on abortion, relating how her favorite place to play growing up was her family’s parish Church. She talked about how her and Governor Greg Abbott’s experience adopting their daughter Audrey solidified their belief that a woman’s decision to place her child for adoption is a brave and selfless choice.

First Lady Cecilia Abbott shares her family’s adoption story. Image courtesy Tigers for Life. 

The event was co-sponsored by several organizations, including Shavano Family Practice, Allied Women’s Center, A Woman’s Haven, LifeChoices Medical Clinic, Abortion Hurts, God Heals, and the Justice Foundation.

MLK March Fills Downtown San Antonio

Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the most influential African-Americans in modern US history.  Each January, the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of San Antonio organize a march to commemorate his life and to honor his achievements.  This is one of the biggest MLK marches in the country. Approximately 300,000 people and communities participate in the San Antonio march every year.  

The nearly 3 mile march began at 10 am on Martin Luther King Dr. in downtown San Antonio.  Thousands of people brought signs, posters, banners, and other display items. Many “Black Lives Matter” signs were present.  One notable sign read, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Signs, posters, and chants are pretty typical for a march.  However, this march was somewhat unique because stereo systems on the side of the road were blasting speeches from King.  The “I Have a Dream” speech was echoed along the street and some people were playing music and singing songs. The main attitude of the participants in the march seemed upbeat and passionate.

This march included many community organizations and universities which participated.  Trinity University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee organized rides to and from the march for students who wished to participate in the march.  Many Trinity students find race issues to be important, and which is why the march matters so much to those students.

“Nowadays the march is to show solidarity within the community,” Josephine Van Houten, an international studies major at Trinity, said.

The issue of racial inequality also hits close to the heart for some students.  “As an African-American in America it does hit close to home for me,” said Chancie Calliham, a junior and political science major.  She further explains that “it’s great to see everyone come together as African-Americans and allies alike just to be here and show support for racial equality and justice in America.”

Other students explained how this march commemorates MLK’s lifetime and what he stood for.  Kievan Boudreaux-Bostic, a junior on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee from Trinity’s Diversity and Inclusion Office (DIO) believed that MLK stood for “Mainly nonviolent protests and loving thy enemy.”  Boudreaux-Bostic added that “he [MLK] was a really brave man because it’s hard to be nonviolent especially when people don’t respond with nonviolence.”

Being one of the biggest MLK marches in the country, this march’s high attendee turnout made an impact on lots of communities where the issue of racial injustice matters most to them.  The march was nonviolent, just as King advocated.