When pro-gun demonstrators announced plans to hold a fake mass shooting on Saturday at the University of Texas in Austin, another group chose to respond with an unusual weapon of their own: flatulence.
The pro-gun protesters took to the streets of the Texas capital for an "open-carry walk" along the western edge of the UT campus on Saturday at noon. Participants were encouraged to bring "rifles and legal black powder pistols," according to the event's Facebook page. The walk was to be followed by a staged reenactment of a mass shooting, complete with cardboard weapons, fake blood, and the sounds of gunshots.
The bizarre protest was sparked by a new Texas law that allows schools to create gun-free zones. Organizers claimed the fake mass shooting was a way to illustrate why allowing students to carry concealed weapons is essential to on-campus safety.
The plan for the fake mass shooting was met with an immediate backlash when it was announced earlier this week. A counter-demonstration was quickly put together, and the organizers behind the rival event apparently decided that brandishing sex toys and blasting the sound of fart noises was the best way to highlight the absurdity of the situation.
"We'll find these wackos and follow them around, farting and waving dildos at them," said the Facebook page for the "Mass Farting" event. "Also feel free to bring signs, other noisemakers, wear costumes, or otherwise prepare to really put a smile on people's faces."
James Barragan, a reporter for the Austin-American Statesman, said the counter-demonstrators, who, true to their word, were armed with dildos and fart noise-making toys, easily outnumbered the pro-gun protesters.
The "Mass Farting" event was the work of UT alum Tim Sookram and activist Andrew Dobbs. "These people have lost their bearings, I believe," Dobbs told the Daily Beast, referring to the pro-gun demonstrators. "They're not thinking in a reasonable way. At this point, they need to be reminded to take life on friendlier terms."
The fake mass shooting, organized by gun rights groups Come and Take It Texas and DontComply.com, was originally intended to be held on the UT-Austin campus, but police and school officials said it would be considered criminal trespassing. The Austin Police Department released a statement saying that it planned to monitor the event, which was moved to a location adjacent to the campus.
After the "open-carry walk" on Saturday, organizers reportedly announced that they were pausing for a lunch break before the shooting reenactment. But, according to the Austin-American Statesman, they then proceeded with the fake mass shooting without stopping to eat, claiming that they staged the shooting twice before police showed up as a way to "illustrate response times."
Taral Patel, a UT-Austin student involved in the counter-protest, told VICE News that he saw the remnants of the mass shooting stunt at an intersection near the campus. He said it looked as if the full-scale mock shooting that was advertised didn't happen as planned.
"[The protesters] drew outlines of bodies and spread ketchup all around it and left it there," Patel said, noting that several counter-protesters were supporters of the right to bear arms. "A lot of the people there with us were pro-gun but thought this [the fake mass shooting] was a terrible idea, regardless of beliefs."
Gun rights supporters claim that armed civilians are capable of stopping mass shootings more quickly than police, and that laws prohibiting guns on campus make schools more susceptible to active shooters. "Now is the time to stand up, take a walk, speak out against the lies and put an end to the gun-free killing zones," said the event page for the fake mass shooting.
"Criminals that want to do evil things and commit murder go places where people are not going to be able to stop them," Matthew Short, a spokesman for Come and Take It Texas and DontComply.com, told the Austin-American Statesman. "When seconds count, the cops are minutes away."
The UT-Austin campus was the site of a mass shooting in 1966 that left 14 people dead and 32 others wounded. Rohit Mandalapu, the student vice president at the school, told VICE News that the demonstration was insensitive, and likely to be disruptive since it was being held during the school's finals week.
"Their original plan was to have a mock mass shooting on campus that used horns and other noises," Mandalapu said. "Regardless of how you stand on guns, this isn't an appropriate thing to do at a university setting, especially during finals and given UT's history with a mass shooting happening almost 50 years ago."
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