What Would You Do If You Saw This Terrifying Video Of "You"?

Photographed by Ben Sklar.
Ana Lopez is an organizer of the Cocks Not Glocks movement at UT Austin.
In August, Ana Lopez and her fellow students at the University of Texas, Austin, organized a protest against the state's recently enacted campus carry law, which allows students who are 21 and have a concealed handgun license to bring guns to public colleges and universities. Earlier this month, Lopez said she learned that she was the target of online threats for her work with the Cocks Not Glocks movement. She shared her story exclusively with Refinery29, and the views expressed here are her own.

"You’re really putting yourself out there. You might be targeted."

It’s different when my mom says it. I shrug off the hesitation and initial fear, knowing that I have so many strong women, strong statistics, and strong opinions behind me. I take into account the concerns, and I continue on in my effort to keep guns off college campuses.

But when the activists on the other side of the issue use that same warning to justify a sick, racist, sexist, disrespectful homemade PSA against common-sense gun laws, it's not just not right. It's unconscionable.

Two weeks ago, a man named Brett Sanders posted to YouTube a graphic "short film" depicting the murder of a woman involved in the Cocks Not Glocks protest of Texas' new campus carry law. The deplorable video had one message, in my view: She’s putting herself out there as a target. Go get her.

The "she" in the video, many people believe, was based on me.

As leaders of a major anti-gun protest that made international headlines, my co-organizers and I are used to the attacks. We are used to the baseless threats of rape and murder. We have been told that we should get lined up and shot. We have been called "sluts" and "whores" ad nauseam. Even our families have been targeted.

I felt a burning in the pit of my stomach when I first saw the video.

We’ve learned to take these comments with a grain of salt.

After all, some people will just never get it. To this day, it still appalls me that the Cocks Not Glocks movement's use of inert, harmless sex toys as protest props elicits a stronger, more violent reaction than the prospect of a drinking-age college student legally carrying a loaded handgun in their JanSport.

But what really sets this snuff film apart from the hate mail we’re so desensitized to is the ill-conceived shock factor of it all.

I felt a burning in the pit of my stomach when I first saw the video. I saw images of my friends, of our allied gun violence prevention organizations, and of our protest itself.

Due to the low quality of the video, I skipped toward the end, not thinking much about it. But then I came upon a scene in which a female Cocks Not Glocks protester who looks like me — and gets a call during the film from one of my real-life friends and fellow activists — gets shot in the head by an intruder. Sanders has since said that he had "never heard" of me before, and that the idea that he intentionally cast my doppelgänger in his film is "absurd." But it didn't feel that way to me.

I felt nauseous. The hair stood up on the back of my neck, and I felt an immense weight bear down on me. I felt horrified, disgusted, and, most of all, livid.
Photographed by Ben Sklar.
Lopez, right, walks through campus with fellow Cocks Not Glocks organizer Jessica Jin.
I quickly read through the comments, expecting to see an outpouring of disapproval, but my eyes locked on one of the top-rated comments: "Ha Ha. He should have raped her first."

I could barely breathe.

The first thing I did was call my mom. The second thing I did was call campus police. I spent the rest of the day feeling numb and hyperaware of my surroundings. After all, I still had to worry about the presence of legal, loaded handguns in my classroom at the University of Texas, Austin, amidst all of this.

The aftermath felt infinitesimally worse, however. I worried that this video would encourage more attacks. I worried for the safety of my peers, and of my family.

The hair stood up on the back of my neck, and I felt an immense weight bear down on me. I felt horrified, disgusted, and, most of all, livid.

I felt uneasy when my Facebook page was temporarily shut down after someone falsely reported my profile as an impersonation account — a move I interpreted as being intended to silence me amid the campus carry debate. My heart jumped when I read a post on the Cocks Not Glocks Facebook wall that read: “A prominent member of Cocks Not Glocks was murdered last night by senseless gun violence.”

I was even more scared when I saw a Facebook post showing a superimposed picture of me next to the actress from the video. The post, which appeared to be shared by someone involved in the video shortly after it went live, called her my “doppelgänger.”

I didn't know what to do. I felt helpless. My parents called me nearly every hour, checking in on me and making sure I hadn’t succumbed to the crippling fear I felt deep inside. I sat on a staircase and spoke quietly with Student Emergency Services. I slinked to class the following day with aviators and a baseball cap on.

The deplorable video had one message, in my view: She’s putting herself out there as a target. Go get her.

But once I got past the shock and disgust of seeing "my" murder on YouTube and "my" eulogy on Facebook, I could see the video for what it was: useless. The producers shot themselves in the foot, I realized. They effectively exposed themselves as the bad guys with guns. These trigger-happy extremists who spend their free time depicting a 20-year-old Latina’s murder, and then denying it on national media — these are the people whose Second Amendment rights should be protected at all costs? These are the trusted good guys with guns who, Sanders says, are ultimately just looking out for our safety?

This is no cautionary tale. This is not meant to encourage and empower young, supposedly misled women to carry killing machines in their backpacks, just like the good boys in the NRA do. This is nothing more than a visceral reaction to educated young women striking back. This is their futile attempt to pacify and silence us.

I’d be scared, too, if I were on the other side. If I were a grown man from a small town in East Texas, and I saw a group of young, big-city women putting my masculinity on a pedestal to parody my right to a gun, I’d hug my Glock a little bit closer that night. It’s all I'd have, after all.

Once I got past the shock and disgust of seeing my murder on YouTube and my eulogy on Facebook, I could see the video for what it was: useless.

I’m not afraid of the people on the other side anymore, though. The moment I back down, they win.

While gun activists sit back and wait with bated breath for the moment a concealed handgun license holder saves the day on campus, I’ll be fighting to keep guns out of my organic chemistry classroom.

Sanders and his cohorts have awakened the carnal, violent tendencies of their followers, and set me up as the “target” my mother has been afraid all along that I would be. But I refuse to cower to their scare tactics.

Instead, I’ll be on the front line, turning up my nose at the noses of their guns. It’s what I do best.

Editor's Note: Refinery29 reached out to Sanders for comment. He reiterated that he had not heard of Lopez before making the video and said his "film serves more as a warning to those who believe disarming good people would accomplish anything positive." "The criminal threat is real, and advertising your own defenselessness is a dangerous proposition," he added. "Although their ideas are dangerous, I'm perfectly happy letting them live their lives however they see fit. That is until you conspire against my right of self preservation, then I will fight back and I will win."

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