AUSTIN, Texas — Around 2 p.m. Saturday, a small group of gun rights activists staged a mock mass shooting at the corner of a sidewalk on the edge of the University of Texas campus.
The stunt garnered national media attention and drew criticism from many in the UT community, but it was quickly overshadowed by dozens of students, professors and Austinites armed with a different sort of weapon — farts.
The combination of the two rallies produced strange optics but offered a glimpse at how divisive the state’s impending campus-carry law has become.
Up first, the members of Come and Take It Texas and DontComply.com quietly played out their mock mass shooting performance armed with cardboard guns and ketchup packets. Several Austin and University of Texas police officers looked on, as did a small number of students.
“It’s disrespectful what they’re doing,” said UT sophomore Charlie Henry as he witnessed the scene.
Four middle-aged actors fell to the ground after pretending to be shot by a young man who pulled a cardboard gun from his suit pocket.
“Open carry is dangerous, threatening, and I don’t think it’s necessary,” Henry continued.
The fake victims, all wearing orange “Gun Free UT” shirts as a slight to the university’s anti-gun group, were then doused with ketchup, and their bodies were outlined with chalk on the pavement.
Meanwhile, the “mass farting” counter-protesters made their way through campus wielding flatulence noisemakers, homemade signs, and dildos, an ode to previous “cocks not glocks” resistance on the issue. Protestors called, “UT,” and loudly responded, “farts,” as they approached the site of the fake mass shooting.
Tim Sookram, a 2006 graduate of UT-Austin, said he and a friend from his college comedy group came up with the idea for the “mass farting” as soon as they heard about the gun-rights groups’ plan to end their open-carry march just across from campus with a “theatrical performance” of a mass shooting.
“They’re not really listening to reason at all, and this is primarily why we’re making fun of them,” Sookram said in a phone interview Friday. “Their rhetoric and their actions are so bizarre, we just have to meet it with the same kind of language.”
Sookram and his cohorts chose a universal language that everyone has spoken at one time or another — fart sounds.
“The first thing that came to mind was the fart blaster from the Minions movie,” he explained.
In addition to several fart blasters, counter-protesters also played fart noises on their cell phones. One man had remixed hip-hop tracks to feature farts blaring from a speaker behind his bike.
The small pro-gun crowd dispersed quickly as counter-protesters converged on them Saturday, chanting: “Don’t shoot, it’s just a poot.”
Murdoch Pizgatti, an organizer of the mock mass shooting, spoke to the Houston Chronicle about his motivation:
“You don’t get a time and place, you don’t get a flier or an invitation for a true mass shooting. They happen unannounced,” said Pizgatti. “And the response time for the police to get over here was well after the event took place. That also illustrates the point of these gun-free zones. You must protect yourself. You must be armed.”
Andrew Dobbs, an activist and UT alum who helped organize the farts, spoke to the crowd. He said the event had been a victory over fear.
“A bunch of people with fart guns scared these guys,” he said into a megaphone, “Let’s carry into our communities a lack of fear.”