The “Student Demonstration” at Rice University
As media flooded Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in Houston, Texas, a protest was held outside Baker Institute. The university’s news and media announced, on March 28th, Vice President Mike Pence would address the issue with Venezuela on April 5th. However, students were not in unison with the university’s belief of allowing the Vice President to speak to their community. Therefore, a petition was created, as well as two events for poster making on April 4th and a protest on April 5th.
In the middle of the green pasture, students were gathered, on April 5th, with posters of images of a uterus, and a few vile statements. Certain students were dressed for the occasion with either a shirt with certain statements or hanging the pride flag on their backs. The belief that this protest held was not considerate of the Latin community. Neon yellow flyers were posted across campus with “Student Demonstration” and “To protest Mike Pence’s practices, policies, and values” in black bold ink, yet nothing included the sole topic of Vice President Pence’s address and neither a Rice Latin Student Organization were listed as an involved group. Rice Student Organizations involved are listed towards the bottom of the flyer, such as Rice Black Student Association, Islamophobia Resistance Campaign, Rice Muslim Student Association, Rice PRIDE, Rice University Young Democrats, and another six student organizations, but none were from a Latin based group.
Personally attending the protest, there were two speakers that expressed concern that created controversy among the audience. One student addressed respect and understanding towards Vice President Mike Pence, and the presence he has on capitol hill. Although this speaker was not given respect by his peers, where one student blew a horn in order to cover up the speaker’s speech, another student stated that the Vice President does not respect her personal beliefs and morals. To which the student speaker’s response was, “if you do not respect him, why should he respect you?” and several students began yelling that Vice President Pence represents the country and is part of the government. We, the people of the United States, represent this nation as well as our national leaders. One must give and earn respect, not solely demand it.
Likewise, Gerardo Penchyna approached the stage with a positive cheer from the audience. Penchyna is a current international student from Mexico at Rice University and is in his third year; he is also majoring in Social Policy Analysis and Political Science. He began his speech with a striking intro of “can we speak about Venezuela?” which led the crowd to cheer, but then that began to die down as he continued with, “can we please push for constructive dialogue and please stop making it about him (Trump administration).” In addition to stating, “this should not be a protest about homophobia and climate change, I am equally as passionate as you guys, but we need to concentrate in the issue at hand and make the most of it. We cannot solve everything in one day, this was not about the reflection of Leftist values. This is about Venezuela, we are part of something bigger.”
Although Penchyna’s speech was extraordinary, in terms of seeking constructive dialogue from both sides, several speakers began dismantling what Penchyna favored. A young Caucasian man began asking the crowd, “why should we respect Mike Pence if he does not respect our queer communities, our black communities, our immigrant communities,” after stating “it is important, in general, to respect people.” He began to contradict the significance of respecting one another when it came to national leaders who are not aligned with a specific identity group, such as LGBTQ+, and encouraging to vote individuals out of office who hold the same ideology as Vice President Mike Pence.
Nevertheless, a young woman approached the stage discussing the number of questions upon the representation of the Latin community within the protest since the majority of students had “F*ck Pence” on signs. She continues stating within President Trump’s administration, it has been the “most anti-immigrant in the history of the united states” and how children are in cages, closing humanitarian aid to Central America, and how “politically convenient” this nation’s involvement in Venezuela. Although she did not factually back up her claims with evidence, Vice President Mike Pence was addressing, to more than 300 individuals within Baker Institute, the outline of the Trump’s administration’s policy on Venezuela and the nation’s “efforts to restore South American country’s freedom, democracy, and rule of law.”
The city of Houston plays a vital role for the community of Venezuela immigrants; the Vice President “has called for the release of six of the company’s executives (Citgo Petroleum corporation) who have been jailed in Venezuela”, and asserting the Venezuela President, Nicolas Maduro, must go due to causing his people suffer. Not to mention, the Vice President expressed the ongoing effort of depriving Venezuela President Maduro’s regime of resources by targeting Venezuela’s oil sector by imposing sanctions on 34 vessels owned and operated by the national oil company, PDVSA. In closing, “Venezuelan oil belongs to Venezuelan people,” Vice President Pence said, underscoring that PDVSA is a “vital source” of the Venezuela President Maduro regime wealth.” As the Vice President left an everlasting mark upon the congregation with assertive action in favor of Venezuela, the students outside Baker Institute did not deliver what should have- fighting for the Venezuelan community.