College sees no official reports of violence at protest, despite rumors

by Rachel Favors | 11/16/15 9:31pm

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Despite rumors amongst students and online, there were no official reports of violence at Thursday's Black Lives Matter protest.

Thursday’s Blackout demonstration, organized by Dartmouth’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has sparked controversy after allegations of physical assault were made by users of social media outlets, like the anonymous messaging app Yik Yak, and later in an editorial in The Dartmouth Review, which on Monday gained traction from some national media outlets.

The Review editorial said demonstrators pushed and shoved students in the library. One female student, the editorial alleges, was pinned against a wall by demonstrators while shouting “filthy white b****!” in her face.

None of the police officers who monitored the demonstration on Thursday night witnessed any acts of violence, Hanover Police Lieutenant Brad Sargent said. As of Monday, only one incident of violence in the library has been reported, and this was by a third party, Sargent said.

No complaints of physical violence have been made, according to a press release by the College. The College described the events as a “peaceful meeting” that transitioned to a “political protest.”

Several students have filed bias incident reports with the College, with some describing feelings of intimidation and disrespect by other students, judicial affairs director Leigh Remy said. Other reports expressed concern from demonstrators, claiming they are being falsely accused of being violent. Some reports claim that demonstrators are being named on Yik Yak and other social media sites, and that this creates a potentially unsafe situation for those people, Remy said.

Several students interviewed by The Dartmouth reported witnessing chants including expletives, such as “F**k your white privilege” and “F**k your comfort.” Several students also said they witnessed a group of women crying on First Floor Berry in response to the demonstration.

Two students reported that demonstrators entered their private study rooms and blocked the doorway, while others said that demonstrators singled out some students by name and circled around others’ desks while chanting. No students reported witnessing or experiencing any sort of physical violence, though some expressed that they felt uncomfortable or intimidated by the protest.

NAACP president Jonathan Diakanwa ’16 said there were incidents of close verbal confrontations between individuals, and that although these students could have been uncomfortable or scared, there was no physical violence of any kind.

NAACP vice president Tsion Abera ’17 also said that there is no truth to the allegations of violence.

“These allegations of physical assault are lies to make white students look like the victims and students of color to look like the perpetrators,” Abera said. “The protest was meant to shut down the library. Whatever discomfort that many white students felt in that library is a fraction of the discomfort that many Natives, blacks, Latina and LGBTQ people feel frequently.”

Abera denied that there were any physical assaults perpetrated by the demonstrators, but some protesters did use profanity in their chants, she said.

The NAACP organized the Blackout to demonstrate solidarity with the black students at the University of Missouri and Yale University, and also in response to the vandalism of a Collis Student Center Atrium #BlackLivesMatter exhibit representing the unarmed black individuals who lost their lives to police brutality this year.

Demonstrators marched from Novack Café to the lawn in front of Dartmouth Hall. At that point the official demonstration concluded, but many demonstrators continued, marching back into First Floor Berry up through Fourth Floor Berry, then back to Novack and Collis.

On First Floor Berry, many demonstrators spoke about their struggles at Dartmouth as a students of color and challenged and yelled at students who were sitting on the other side of the library to stand up and support the movement.

Many of the demonstrators then approached the sitting students and chanted “F**k your white privilege” and “F**k your white asses,” demonstrator Dan Korff-Korn ’19 said.

“It was important to point out that the students sitting there in the library at the computers represented this greater degree of ignorance, apathy and privilege that you see at Dartmouth, but the way it was done by personally attacking people was counterproductive,” Korff-Korn said.

David Tramonte ’18, who was not involved in or present at the library during the demonstration, said he heard from some students in the library that students were verbally assaulted and that some cried in response to this treatment.

“While I don’t think the protest should happen again to the extent where people are being yelled at and making people cry, I think the invasion of space needed to be done,” Tramonte said.

Victoria Campbell ’18, who also was not involved with the demonstration, said she has heard that demonstrators got in other student’s faces and that there were some incidents of disrespectful language.

“However, I have a problem with the protest being made to look like a spectacle by the students who were recording videos of it in the library,” Campbell said.

Many white students were angered by the protest and the language used, but the protest should not be labeled as a hate crime or racist, Tramonte said.

Charlie Lundquist ’17, who participated in the protest but left after feeling uncomfortable with the shift in tone and documented this experience in a column on The Tab, an online tabloid covering Dartmouth-related issues, said that the protest’s organizers “failed to identify what exactly was going to happen in the protest that day.”

“I think a lot of people wouldn’t have participated if they had known that the protest would be disruptive and in the library yelling,” Lundquist said.

Lundquist said that he left almost immediately after the protest reached the library, and did not witness personally any yelling or intimidation.

Lundquist later clarified that he did witness some yelling, but not at the level which was described by The Dartmouth Review or on Yik Yak. The yelling he witnessed led him to decide to leave the protest before it escalated further, he said.

Comments such as “F*** your white privilege” were not personal or racist attacks on individual white persons in the library, Diakanwa said. Instead, these comments were meant to target the legacy of white supremacy that many students have benefited from and students of color are fighting against, he said.

Demonstrator Kevin Bui ’17 said that the protest called attention to important issues regardless of its use of expletives.

“I do agree that emotions got quite strong, but I think that we as a community should validate their anger and listen to it and not just brush it off,” Bui said. “It is important to look at what causes such emotion and how to support that.”

On Friday, College President Phil Hanlon responded to the controversy of the demonstration in a campus-wide email.

Halon’s email did not directly mention the protests, but it did discuss the merits of “free expression and the open exchange of ideas” while acknowledging that “the inclusion and safety of all members of our campus is a responsibility...citizens of the Dartmouth community [hold.]”

Hanlon’s response shows that people of color are not supported by the administration, Abera said, which has been evidenced by administrators’ responses to previous racist acts against people of color, such as the alleged egging of a Native American student this term, hate speech on social media and death threats that were posted on Bored at Baker during previous protests,

NAACP secretary Abbeygale Anderson ’18 described Hanlon’s response as “political rhetoric and fluff” that did not address anything that occurred on campus from either perspective of demonstrators or students who felt targeted by them.

At a community discussion in Cutter-Shabazz on Monday night, several students voiced concerns over portrayals of Thursday’s protest, particularly in The Dartmouth Review and on Yik Yak.

Vice provost for student affairs Inge-Lise Ameer was in attendance at the meeting, and she apologized to students who engaged in the protest for the negative responses and media coverage that they have received.

“There’s a whole conservative world out there that’s not being very nice,” Ameer said.

Ameer pointed to the College’s press release that acknowledges that no complaints of violence have been filed with the College at this time and describes the protest as a “peaceful meeting” turned “political protest.”

Many students who witnessed the actions of the protesters approached by The Dartmouth declined to comment for this article.

Assistant dean and advisor to black students at the Office of Pluralism and leadership did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Safety and Security director Harry Kinne did not respond to request for comment by press time.

Addendum (Nov. 17, 2015):

This article has been updated to include a clarification from Lundquist that he did witness some yelling, though it was not at the level described by The Dartmouth Review or on Yik Yak.