The Forty Acres is once again filled with students as classes begin on the University of Texas at Austin campus Wednesday. But the sound of footsteps hurrying to class was overshadowed by chanting.
"Gun Free UT! Gun Free UT," students, faculty and staff chanted.
The group of a few hundred people was joined by Austin Mayor Pro-Tem Kathie Tovo as they filled the west mall in protest of a new Texas law that allows concealed carry license holders to bring their handguns into campus buildings.
"Guns don't belong in classrooms and they completely change the tenor of the environment and make it really hard to teach if you don't know if someone might have a gun in their pocket," said UT Professor of History Joan Neuberger.
While the faculty and staff wore "Gun Free UT" shirts, the students took a more colorful approach to protesting by strapping sex toys onto their backpacks.
Recent UT graduate Jessica Jin started the "movement" and flew back to Austin to participate in the protest. The group passed out 4,500 adult toys that had been donated to them from various businesses across the country.
Their motto, ‘fighting absurdity with absurdity,’ is meant to imply that the campus carry law is just as absurd as carrying around an adult toy in public.
"People have become so numb to gun violence that they no longer react to mass shootings, they no longer react when an entire family gets killed, they no longer react, you know, when somebody suffering from domestic abuse finally dies because there's a gun in the household," said Jin. "So one thing people so react to is the open display of sex toys and when they see them, they're like, 'that's horrible for society, that's uncomfortable for me, that's bad for my children, I don't want that in my public spaces'. And we ask, you know, just because a gun is concealed, why don't you feel the same way?"
Not only do the toys make some uncomfortable, carrying them in the open is against UT's policy that prohibits writings, images, or performances that are deemed “obscene” as defined in Texas Penal Code, Section 43.21.
"You can't hurt anybody with this," said student Kailey Moore, "so why is it illegal to carry this, but legal to carry a deadly weapon?"
In the crowd of hundreds, just two students stood in opposition, arguing concealed weapons and free speech can peacefully co-exist on campus.
Neuberger disagrees. "From my point of view, that not knowing if there's a gun in campus changes the way I teach and limits what I can say," she said. "So it's very hard for me to understand if there's not a part of the first amendment that's connected with that."
Jin adds while limiting speech is a factor, she believes the problem is much larger.
"We continue to perpetuate gun culture and condone gun violence and, you know, encourage people to react to violence with more violence through all these laws that we keep pushing," Jin explained.
She added that an example of this is the comments people are making online about the rally, wishing violence on the protestors.
Still some students argue having guns on campus makes them feel safe.
"I don't expect someone who's licensed to burst into the classroom and shoot anybody, but at the same time, if that did happen, I would feel a lot more safe if I had my own handgun to shoot back and defend myself,” said Christi Denno, a UT Student.
UT released the following statement in regard to the protest:
UT Austin students are free to express themselves peacefully on all issues. The planned protests around campus carry appear to be examples of protected political speech. We ask that the conversations around this issue remain civil. We encourage students of all opinions to be a part of this and other discussions of public policy.
Follow reporter Ashley Gouedau for updates from the protest: