Protesters gather and call for engineering student’s arrest charges to be dropped – Massachusetts Daily Collegian

On the afternoon of Monday, November 21, more than 40 students gathered outside the University of Massachusetts Student Union to speak out against the charges brought against an engineering student of color at UMass in early November and against other racially motivated incidents occurring on campus.

The demonstration was held alongside a petition calling for “UMass management, the UMass police department, and the attorney general’s office” to drop charges against the student who was arrested by UMPD on November 1. The petition has more than 2,170 signatures from UMass alumni, undergraduate and graduate students, and faculty.

On November 8, Counselor Subbaswamy wrote to the campus community via email that the arrest was under “investigation” after witnesses called his office with concern.

The student-led petition states that “the arrest should be reconsidered in the context of the current environment of racial tension on the UMass Amherst campus.”

The petition, along with the protesters, made it clear that the march was more than an individual arrest. The UMass community has long experienced an environment of racial tension. There has been a series of racially motivated incidents in the past year or so, starting last year with an anonymous anti-Black email sent to black student groups, continuing with verbal assaults and another email series targeting diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and a Latino faculty member at the College Engineering. On November 4, a black student was told by a PVTA driver to get off the bus and called the police after the student boarded the bus with a glass of lemonade.

At approximately 3:30 p.m. Monday in frigid conditions, student union protesters marched to the Whitmore administration building holding signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and chanting “Black Students Matter,” “Black College Matter.”

When the protesters arrived outside Whitmore, organizer Bidvin Ding, a junior biology student, spoke into a megaphone to the protesters. She spoke about the arrest, the incident on the PVTA bus in early November, and other racially motivated negative experiences students faced on the UMass campus.

A student’s life has been thrown away from this simple interaction. And this is not the first time – it happens all the time. The smallest things, even for the bus situation that happened to these two black women. [They] came [the bus] With one drink and the police called them…” Ding said.

“Something needs to change. We’re calling for that change now. Because it’s not fair—we’re really a small minority on this campus and we’re targeted in every little thing we do. We’re not safe. We’re not safe anywhere.”

Liesel Nygaard/Daily Collegian (2022)

The protesters then marched inside Whitmore to the Office of Student Affairs and Campus Life and marched to Sarah Littlecrew Russell, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Campus Life, and Cheryl Ponder, Interim Vice Chancellor for Advocacy, Inclusion, and Support Programs.

Students shared with members of the administration their racially charged negative experiences on the UMass campus and with UMPD.

Fifth-year communications student Mia Ball said that by the time she began attending UMass, she had trouble moving around and would collapse on her way to class. I participated in this one time, she was walking back from class and was stuck on the sidewalk for a few hours. Paul calls a friend to come pick her up, who brings a wheelchair from the Isenberg School of Management building to take Paul back to her college dorm. Paul said the UMPD stopped while they were trying to cross the street on the chair.

Paul said she explained to them that she had a condition that was causing her to lose consciousness, and instead of offering some form of assistance, the UMass Police Department told me that “it is an offense to take property from a federal building” and then left the car. Instead of offering any help, they told me, as a student, “A black handicap, that I’m committing a felony. This needs to change. I’m tired of seeing my peers’ stories over and over, of my community getting hurt on a daily basis. It’s sickening. I’m sick of it.”

Paul told the management, “So please, make it stop. The people here have the power to stop it. Enough is enough.”

Dele Osinubi, senior major in biology, spoke as a friend of the student of color who was arrested by UMPD on Commonwealth Avenue on November 1.

Osenobe said he watched the video and saw an officer stop his friend to ask him where he was going. Osenobe said his friend said he was going to his car, to which the officer responded by grabbing his friend’s hand without warning. Then his friend, an engineering student, asked the officer several times for his badge number – and the officer did not respond and did not let go of the student’s arm.

“You can clearly see that there is a commotion of frustration because there is no reason for this to happen. He is going the same way as everyone else,” Osenobe said. The caught student cried out at that moment, out of frustration at having to grab At this point, Osenobe said, another officer came forward and “treated him like a complete slave,” and pushed his friend against the policeman’s car.

“When you’re publicly embarrassing someone after class, you dog-run them to Patty’s cart in front of everyone, in front of the Mullins Center,” Osenobe turned to the group, “This is a play, you guys.”

“My frustration is not only you [UMPD] Lying, you also embarrass someone. You have the audacity to charge them with assault and beating a policeman,” Osinobi continued. “X[ese are] It’s not of interest to the kids, he’s an engineering major, and that could get him kicked out of school, and that’s why this isn’t a game because yes, there are misunderstandings, but you’re playing with someone’s life.”

Osenobe said that when he heard of an email from Chancellor Supaswami dealing with the arrest, it felt like “the same theatrics that happened last year” referring to the anonymous racist email sent to black student organizations last fall, and another again in the spring.

“You said last year you had an investigation and nothing was resolved — what investigation will be conducted this time that will resolve something? I just want to know because I don’t see it happening. I came here to demand that the charges be dropped,” Osenobe said. I came here to make sure my boyfriend was well taken care of.”

Liesel Nygaard/Daily Collegian (2022)

Among the other students who spoke about the racism they personally experienced on campus, at the hands of students, faculty, and UMPD, Jordan O’Hare Gibson, a biology and African American studies senior, spoke about remarks he made when walking into Whitmore.

“When I walked into Whitmore, I noticed these signs were everywhere: ‘Building a community of dignity and respect, respecting differences, cultivating belonging,'” Gibson said of the posters on Whitmore’s walls.

He told the protesters, “Raise your hand if you feel you belong now.” No raising of hands in the crowd.

“That’s what I thought. Everything is interactive. Everything is interactive with incidents that happen after the damage has already been done,” Gibson said of the university administration’s responses to the many racist incidents that have occurred over the years on campus.

Rather than continue cultivating a community of racism and unsafe student conditions, Gibson suggested that UMass implement something like the town of Amherst’s CRESS program – Community Responders for Equity, Safety and Service. Defunding the UMPD and allocating the money to more equitable resources for students was a topic of discussion Monday, prompted in part by a signal made by a protester who read that the UMPD budget is more than $7 million.

UMPD’s actual base budget for FY22 is $7,011,009; The projected base budget for the 2013 fiscal year is $7,156,148, according to the university’s financial reports.

Protesters confronted campus administrators, asking them if the demands in their flyers were feasible. Demands included dropping all charges against the arrested student, mandating body cameras for UMPD officers, implementing better race sensitivity and fairness training, and creating safer and more welcoming environments for black students and students of color.

Ponder, the university’s interim associate vice president for advocacy, inclusion, and support programs, responded to the students by saying that “systems are slowly changing.”

Littlecrow-Russell called for the student’s arrest charges to be dropped. “I will go on record to say that I truly and honestly would be very happy and would love to be able to see the charges dropped,” she said. “I have no control over that, I’m not the attorney general, and I’m not the one. But that would be something I would be very comfortable seeing.”

Meditation approved. The officials spoke a few words to the protesters.

As the protesters made their way to Whitmore’s lobby to gather, Ding thanked them for wanting to share their experiences with the administration, adding that this would not be the last example of a protest against racism at UMass. When the group dispersed, Ding thought of protesting and the administration’s response to their words.

“I hope [administration] They will do better, especially women of color who are coming out to talk to people about something that also affects people in their community. I think they would be more inclined to be harsh with us, but they fail to do so. So there’s not much we can do about it, Ding said.

Ding said there is a lot she plans to do to combat what she feels is administrative inaction. It plans to collaborate with other black student organizations on campus in the future, and to find outside resources to help support the community in these changes and demands.

“I try to find direct links and the right vocabulary so that they understand what we want.”

“This is just one protest. This is just one incident. Don’t let this stop,” said Ding. “We have to keep doing this. This is an everyday thing, not just for black students on campus, but for everyone… We need to attack the institutions.”

Ella Adams can be reached at [email protected] And follow her on Twitter @Ella_Adams15. Liesel Nygard can be reached at the address [email protected] And follow her on Twitter @LieselNygard.

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