The Weekly: Week Seven Recap

NU Community Not Cops daily protests continued this week, and President Morton Schapiro sent out a second email addressing the protests. Also, as the presidential election approaches, many students are planning to cast votes for either Joe Biden or Donald Trump. Why are they supporting their chosen candidate? Listen to The Weekly: Week 7 to hear directly from the reporters and editors who covered our recent top stories.

ALEX CHUN: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Alex Chun.

ANIKA MITTU: I’m Anika Mittu.

VICTORIA BENEFIELD: And I’m Victoria Benefield. This is The Weekly, a podcast that breaks down our top headlines each week.

ALEX CHUN: The NU Community Not Cops protests that started on Oct. 12 continued this week. At last Saturday’s protest, police used pepper spray, and one student was arrested.

ANIKA MITTU: Also this week, University President Morton Schapiro sent out an email addressing the University’s continued review of University Police and the backlash about his Oct. 19 statement in which he said he was “disgusted” by the protestors’ actions.

VICTORIA BENEFIELD: And with the presidential election approaching, some Northwestern students are casting ballots for Joe Biden, hoping to prevent four more years of the Trump administration and address pressing issues like climate change.

ANIKA MITTU: Meanwhile, other students are voting for Donald Trump. Some students said it’s because of Trump’s hopes to recover the economy amid COVID-19 and their own loyalty to conservative policies.

VICTORIA BENEFIELD: Stay with us to hear directly from the reporters and editors who covered our top stories.

ALEX CHUN: Last Saturday at a protest led by student group NU Community Not Cops, police deployed pepper spray, and one student was arrested. The protest started at 9 p.m. outside the John Evans Alumni Center. Here to tell us more about this story is assistant campus editor Tal Schatsky. Tal, how did the march begin?

TAL SCHATSKY: The group started at the John Evans Alumni Center, and then marched past the Rebecca Crown Center, where they spray-painted the staircase and left like some toilet paper kind of tied around the railings of the staircase, and then marched south on Orrington and then turned east on Church Street. And that’s where, according to my own experience, and kind of the people I’ve debriefed with after, things started to escalate. What seems (to have) happened was that police moved in, they were sort of trying to get the crowd out of the way. And the crowd was disruptive, people were, like firecrackers were being released, every once in a while sort of to make noise. The crowd was chanting and loud and playing music.

ALEX CHUN: And soon after the police moved in, an arrest was made. Can you tell me more about this?

TAL SCHATSKY: I was sort of towards the front, and then off to the side on the sidewalk. And I heard yelling, and at the beginning of the action, protesters had practiced like a de-arrest. And so I kind of knew the things to hear for when something was gonna happen, I figured something was happening.

ALEX CHUN: And what were you listening for?

TAL SCHATSKY: I heard people yelling for backup. So I ran back there, and there was a wall of police on bikes and in riot gear. There was K-9 backup. And it seems like they had been trying to push into the crowd. And sort of a bike martial that was on the back, tried to stop them, and didn’t move out of their way and, like, stood their ground as they were trying to push through. And so (the police) just grabbed her. And a bunch of people tried to de-arrest, but the cops were really forceful, they pushed them out of the way, and so at this point, I kind of had gotten to where I was able to see they threw her onto the ground and pinned her to the sidewalk. And I was kind of able to make my way over there and I approached her and I asked her her name, and I was taking photos of the police, and I don’t really remember this part super well, but I got like, they were screaming at me, and I got shoved to the ground. And then they started sort of firing like pepperballs into the crowd and pepper spray as well.

ALEX CHUN: So what did the group do next after the arrest?

TAL SCHATSKY: a lot of people got like, pretty severely injured from the pepper spray. And so the group was like, okay, we’re retreating. And so eventually everyone just kind of clumped together and was walking slowly to the dispersal location. The whole line was holding open umbrellas to protect their faces and protect from, like, ammunition. And at this point, too, if you look up you can see like, all of these residents and students like watching this happen from their windows from their, like, Halloween parties. And yeah, so we backed up all the way from Orrington and Church. We like, backed all the way around the bend to Maple and Davis, with the cops following us and pushing and telling us to back up, back up, back up, back up.

ALEX CHUN: And so after the group dispersed, NU Community Not Cops provided support for the student who was arrested. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

TAL SCHATSKY: So then we found word a few minutes later that the person was being held at the EPD precinct. And so a group of about 20 went back to the precinct and just hung out there for the rest of the night. They brought blankets and food and hot cocoa and were like playing music and sleeping and hanging out just on the street outside the precinct until she was released at around 4:30 a.m., at which point we all dispersed and went home.

ALEX CHUN: There’s one important thing I want to note. There’s been these officers at protests, including Saturday’s, and they’re actually not University Police or officers from the EPD. They’re the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System’s Mobile Field Force. Can you tell me more about them?

TAL SCHATSKY: They’ve made up a good 50 percent, if not more, of all police presence at the protests for the past several weeks. So if you see photographs of guys in yellow jackets, that’s them.

ALEX CHUN: And who exactly are they?

TAL SCHATSKY: Okay, so their description: The NIPAS Mobile Field Force was created in the spring of 1994 to maximize the effectiveness of initial response efforts by police when a major civil disturbance occurs. Civil disturbances, union conflicts, public demonstrations and other events involving large or disorderly crowds require skillful response by police agencies. And then they have like a bulleted list of the things that they are trained to do, which are control unruly crowds, either hostile or passive, seal off problem areas, regardless of size. Rescue citizens or officers from crowds, clear an area of hostile individuals by use of proactive tactics and apprehend multiple offenders if required. So that’s it.

ALEX CHUN: Tal, thanks so much for coming on.

VICTORIA BENEFIELD: Also this past week, on Oct. 26, hundreds of Northwestern faculty members and professors signed a letter to Schapiro. The letter was written by Northwestern’s Gender and Sexuality Studies program and condemned Schapiro’s Oct. 19 email about student protestors and his response to police brutality in general.

ANIKA MITTU: Then, on Oct. 27, Schapiro sent out an email to the Northwestern community. In it, he addressed the emails from faculty and students and gave updates about the University’s efforts to reform the University Police. Here to tell us more about this is campus editor Isabelle Sarraf. Isabelle, how did Schapiro address the backlash he received from his previous statement?

ISABELLE SARRAF: He like kind of just threw away in one sentence like, “Thank you for your letters and statements to the community.” Just, like, barely acknowledging the fact that over a dozen departments, graduate coalitions, undergraduate groups have been denouncing his original email condemning protesters. So, it was interesting to see how Schapiro just kind of waved those off despite the fact that they’ve been getting a lot of traction, like hundreds and hundreds of faculty members have been condemning his email, and he didn’t really acknowledge it.

ANIKA MITTU: What did Schapiro have to say about University Police?

ISABELLE SARRAF: He also announced the creation of a new advisory committee. The University actually had a police advisory board in the past, which some students who were on the board have said was like ineffective, or didn’t meet as often as they thought it would, didn’t meet at all, like students really weren’t as included as they thought they would be. So, a lot of students have been saying that Morty’s new advisory committee is just kind of like rehashing the old thing that didn’t work in the first place. So it’s gotten a lot of criticism in terms of that.

ANIKA MITTU: Besides the police advisory committee, how is Schapiro planning to include students in the review process?

ISABELLE SARRAF: He also said that he’s planning to schedule conversations on issues about public safety, well-being and equity. So, he’s, like, open to having dialogue with the student body.

VICTORIA BENEFIELD: But many students criticized the way administration has handled meeting with students in the past, saying that administration has been unprepared. After President Schapiro sent out this email, some students took to social media to question why Schapiro offered to meet in-person in a pandemic. Some also criticized Schapiro for offering dialogue rather than addressing their demands with action. I’m sure Isabelle and her campus reporters will keep us updated on how this develops — thanks for coming on, Isabelle.

ANIKA MITTU: With the election less than a week away, many Northwestern students are preparing to vote or may have already voted.

VICTORIA BENEFIELD: And as many students vote in their first-ever presidential election, some are opting to vote for Joe Biden.

ANIKA MITTU: Meanwhile, others are hoping to see four more years of Donald Trump’s presidency. Here to chat with us about students’ vote decisions are assistant campus editor Tal and reporter Alex Perry. Let’s start by talking about why some students are voting for Biden. Tal, you covered this story. What did students have to say?

TAL SCHATSKY: We’re in the midst of this national Black-led movement to abolish prisons and policing. But I see a really strong disconnect between this progressive, futuristic base, and kind of the old school Democratic Party base that coalesced around Joe Biden during the primary. So to kind of look at that disconnect, I focused on talking to voters who fall within this progressive base. Progressive voters are voting for Biden as a lesser of two evils, with the knowledge that a vote for Biden and a Biden administration is by no means the end goal, and that there’s a continuation of on-the-ground grassroots organizing that needs to happen in order to achieve some of these progressive goals, because they don’t really fit in the framework of the Democratic Party at the moment.

ANIKA MITTU: Overall, how are students feeling about their choice between the two candidates?

TAL SCHATSKY: What I heard from many voters is that the dichotomy that we’re facing between a real threat to basic human rights and less of a threat is not an ideal dichotomy. That’s not a dichotomy that voters want to be facing.

ANIKA MITTU: What are some flaws that students see in the Biden/Harris ticket?

TAL SCHATSKY: I think it kind of goes back to what I said about there being this real disconnect between the younger progressive base of the Democratic Party and the older base. And you kind of see this through like, in the middle of this sort of historic movement to abolish prisons and policing, Joe Biden appoints Kamala Harris, who is a former prosecutor, to be his running mate. The fact that he picked someone who is a former prosecutor just shows that there’s kind of a glitch in our understanding between the younger progressive base and the older base of the party. The Biden/Harris administration has also explicitly said they are not against fracking, which many progressive voters take issue with in regards to the urgency of climate change, but a more moderate base might be happy with because of the economic implications of fracking.

VICTORIA BENEFIELD: Yeah. There’s definitely been criticism from Democratic voters. For example, the popularization of the hashtag #settleforBiden. So, despite their critiques, why are these students choosing to, as they say, settle for Biden?

TAL SCHATSKY: I’d identify a few areas that I talked about with my sources where the administration flip is really a matter of a ticking clock, which is why people are willing to vote for Biden, even if he’s still kind of this old school party Democrat. Those areas are climate change, immigration, and then within immigration, the so-called “Muslim bans” that Trump has implemented and what people say is the xenophobia associated with that, as well as DACA, which also kind of has a ticking clock because there are many people currently residing in the US who are protected under DACA. And Trump’s administration has repeatedly tried to overturn those protections and make them harder to maintain.

VICTORIA BENEFIELD: And are students confident and assured that Biden will win?

TAL SCHATSKY: I wouldn’t say that’s the sense that I got. I think what I’m hearing from people is a sense of desperation and kind of this impending election date with two possibilities, one of which they feel could be pretty severe, that being the re-election of Donald Trump. And so I think the attitude that people are having towards the election is not relaxed. I don’t think people are settling into projections of Biden being a likely win. I think people are anxious and don’t want to let their guard down.

ANIKA MITTU: Thanks for coming on, Tal.

ANIKA MITTU: Meanwhile, reporter Alex Perry chatted with some students voting for Donald Trump. Alex, why are some Northwestern students hoping our current president gets four more years in office?

ALEX PERRY: When I initially talked to Northwestern students who are voting for Trump, obviously we talked a lot about the coronavirus pandemic. A lot of the conversation was about how much their families lost because of coronavirus mitigations that were in place by Democratic leaders. So I did interview somebody who lives in Michigan and somebody who lives in Illinois, and both of those states have or were under coronavirus restrictions in the spring that were put in place by Democratic lawmakers.

ANIKA MITTU: How did COVID-19 affect their families?

ALEX PERRY: The boy who lived in Illinois, Michael Richards, his mother, actually, she works for a taekwondo place. And because that didn’t fall under the essential businesses, it was a fitness center so it got closed down. And his family suffered because of that. So when he compares the two plans that the candidates have Trump’s appeal of reopening the economy, that’s why he’s voting for him. And it’s also because he did have ideas toward conservatism. Like, he is a conservative.

ANIKA MITTU: Why else are some of these voters choosing Trump?

ALEX PERRY: The students supporting Trump are more conservative-loyal than Trump-loyal. They’re also staunch supporters of lower taxes and just less government involvement in general. They recognize that there is an appeal to him being an outsider. They didn’t like the establishment, they like the outside man, and that appeals to them because it seems more representative of just an average citizen getting into politics, not a career politician, which is why they’re turned down by Biden, for example, because they look at him, they see his record and they say, “This guy was in office for 47 years.” Trump appeals to them more because he just has this personality where although what he does is problematic to some — if he says he’s gonna do it, he follows through.

VICTORIA BENEFIELD: So, many students voting for Biden have criticized Trump’s track record. What did students supporting him have to say?

ALEX PERRY: One person actually said if Trump just didn’t have social media, he’d be the best president. I know his immigration policies have been very problematic to voters. And Michael Richards actually said that his family legally immigrated to this country. So he’s a strong supporter of legal immigration and supporting America first. So while they did not mention family separation policies, specifically, they did say that they supported legal immigration, and that it’d be more beneficial to put America and Americans first.

VICTORIA BENEFIELD: So, do these voters think Trump is going to win?

ALEX PERRY: Obviously, they know other people who are voting for Trump. They reference the silent majority. I do think they have confidence in voter turnout for Trump.

VICTORIA BENEFIELD: Thanks so much for coming on, Alex.

ANIKA MITTU: And in case you missed it, on Oct. 28, University President Morton Schapiro sent an email to the Northwestern community, announcing plans for first- and second-years to be invited back to campus this winter.

VICTORIA BENEFIELD: However, this email was met with mixed reactions from students on social media, with some pointing out that the University is currently seeing a rise in positive cases on campus. Evanston saw its highest positive case count last Saturday, on Oct. 24. And we’ll see in the coming weeks how that develops.

ANIKA MITTU: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Anika Mittu.

ALEX CHUN: I’m Alex Chun.

VICTORIA BENEFIELD: And I’m Victoria Benefield. That’s it for this episode of The Weekly, we’ll see you next Monday.

ANIKA MITTU: This episode was reported by Isabelle Sarraf, Tal Schatsky, Alex Perry, Victoria Benefield and myself, Anika Mittu. This episode was produced by both Victoria Benefield and myself. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Alex Chun, the digital managing editors are Molly Lubbers and Jacob Ohara, and the editor in chief is Marissa Martinez.

Stories Referenced:
Why these Northwestern students are voting for Trump
Biden supporters weigh in on policies, Trump alternative
President Schapiro promises dialogue and change on police reform
Northwestern to bring underclassmen to campus this winter
Evanston sees highest single day COVID-19 case increase on Saturday