Protesters demonstrate against on-campus policing, present Black student demands at The Rock


Kimberly Espinosa/Daily Senior Staffer

The Rock. Students painted it black with phrases such as “Stop policing Black spaces” and “#BLM” after the protest Tuesday.

Pavan Acharya and Russell Leung

More than 200 students protested Northwestern’s policing of Black community members and presented a set of demands for Black student safety and support at a Tuesday demonstration at The Rock.

Students chanted phrases including “No justice, no peace” and “Money for students, not police.” The event’s co-organizers condemned the University’s response to the Clark Street Beach shooting on April 12, both during and after the emergency, in addition to the school’s failure to meet some of the demands Black students presented during the 1968 Bursar’s Office Takeover. Medill freshman Atarah Israel then read a poem about racial justice she originally wrote in 2020 but that she said “still has a lot of resonance today.”

Some attendees said the protest was also prompted by recent changes in policy enforcement at the Black House. According to SESP and Weinberg sophomore Micaiah Ligon, a protest co-organizer, Multicultural Student Affairs recently announced a University representative will make students leave the space at midnight Saturday through Thursday and 10 p.m. on Fridays. Previously, students said, the University would not enforce a closing time at the Black House.

Several attendees, including event co-organizer and Medill senior Onyeka Chigbogwu, said Black students should have been consulted about the decision.

“This is one of those small forms of policing,” Chigbogwu, a former Daily staffer, said. “People think of police just as the squad cars (or) how many literal physical cops are hired by Evanston or by the University on each corner. But policing is also an action we do in so many spaces.”

Weinberg sophomore Dylan Carey attended Tuesday’s protest. He said he sees police officers all across campus and that their presence makes him “uncomfortable.”

He added University Police’s response to the Clark Street Beach shooting showed the force’s  inadequacy in keeping community members safe –– despite its size and presence.

“I feel like I see them everywhere. And for me, I don’t do anything wrong, but yet I still get a visceral reaction,” Carey said. “I just think that for the amount of money that we spend on them, they don’t do enough.”

Student organizers referenced a statement they released Monday listing six official demands of the University: an in-person meeting between its authors and the administration within seven days, consultation with Black students by Multicultural Student Affairs on decisions that affect the Black House, funding increases for Black student-led organizations, a review of NU recruitment and admissions policies, an end to the policing of Black spaces and a plan for the University to meet the demands of the Bursar’s Office Takeover.

As of Tuesday night, 23 student organizations and more than 400 students had signed the letter.

“I want to see some stuff in black and white with signatures on it. I don’t just want words,” Ligon said. “We need to actually see tangible evidence.”

In April 1968, representatives from For Members Only and the Afro-American Student Union presented a list of demands to the NU administration, many asking for more resources for Black students on campus. These included an increase in Black student admissions, an acknowledgment of the existence of institutional racism at the University and the establishment of a Black student union.

The administration did not meet all of the demands by May 2, 1968. As a result, more than 100 NU students took over the Bursar’s Office on May 3 and 4 in a peaceful effort to bring attention to the issues presented. The occupation ended 38 hours later, when University administrators committed to increasing support and services for Black students in admissions, curriculum, counseling, scholarship, housing and facilities.

However, four of the original demands have not been met, according to the event organizers. NU has not issued an official statement acknowledging the existence of institutional racism at the University, increased financial scholarships for Black students, created Black residential colleges nor hired a Black counselor for Black students, the organizers said. 

Communication sophomore Blessing Agyare, said she decided to attend Tuesday’s rally because of the new policy at the Black House. For Agyare and her friends, the space is their “home.”

“I want to say it’s shocking, but it’s not,” Agyare said. “Black lives continue to not be a priority for the University.”

In a Tuesday afternoon statement to The Daily, University spokesperson Jon Yates said NU “acknowledged racism” in its original agreement with students in 1968 and currently employs Black counselors who are available for Black students. He also cited NU’s financial aid policy of meeting cost-of-attendance needs without loans. 

Yates also said the University has worked with student leaders to address the issues raised in the Bursar’s Office Takeover. He said although NU has recently increased security patrols on campus in response to reports of vandalism and theft, it has reformed protocol so the Division of Student Affairs now handles some situations that UP previously would have handled.

“The University is mindful that we must balance calls for increased security with student concerns around security presence,” Yates said in the statement.

Following the rally, students painted The Rock black with white lettering that reads “Stop policing Black spaces,” “We keep us safe” and “Meet our demands,” among other statements. Ligon said The Rock is “very symbolic” for NU students and that painting it is a form of activism. 

She added that organizers wanted to paint The Rock to leave their mark on campus and so passersby could be aware of their movement.

“This is just the beginning,” Ligon told the crowd. “We will continue to protest and practice other forms of demonstration and activism until our demands are met.”

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Twitter: @PavanAcharya02

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