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Seventeen students were arrested yesterday on the University of Texas-Austin campus for staging a non-violent protest of the university’s endorsement of Nike. Members of the Make UT Sweatshop Free Coalition staged a sit-in at the University and were arrested for trespassing. The university is currently affiliated with the Fair Labor Association, an industry watch dog which was formed by the apparel industry in the wake of sweat shop scandals of the 90s (remember Kathie Lee?) The students, obviously concerned about the objectivity of this industry endorsed watch dog, were staging a sit in to raise awareness of labor exploitation around the world and to petition the university to join the Workers Rights Consortium.
The non violent sit-in began in President Powers office at approximately 12:30 yesterday. By late in the afternoon a large crowd gathered outside the Main Building to demonstrate support for the non violent protesters. Police responded at approximately 5:00 P.M., and forced their way through and began arresting sit-in participants. The Daily Texan, UT’s student newspaper, reports that 19 people were arrested, 17 of whom were UT students.
“In 2010, companies like Nike made more than $100 million selling Longhorn apparel (manufactured) in over 4,400 factories around the world; yet their workers are deprived of wages they can survive on, face sexual harassment, and even risk their lives in the fight for dignity and respect,” said Billy Yates, a member of Students Against Sweatshops at the University of Texas and a sit-in participant. “For years, we’ve asked that the University live up to its core values and join over 180 universities across the country to put an end to this abuse by joining the WRC. President Powers has repeatedly told us that this ‘case is closed,’ but 25 student and community groups in Texas have joined the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition to let him know that students and workers won’t let him close the case on workers’ rights.”
In response to the arrests students and professors have organized a petition asking the university to drop the charges and live up to the social standards which the university claims are its core values.
There has been a long standing tradition of non-violent protests being staged on university campuses to raise awareness for national and global social issues, and the students are requesting that the university honor its commitment to education and societal rights.
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