Geovanni Cuevas '14 alleges assault by Brown University security officer
Geovanni Cuevas ’14 said that he was assaulted by a Brown University Department of Public Safety officer while representing Dartmouth as a senior delegate at the annual Latinx Ivy League Conference, hosted this weekend by Brown. The incident took place just after midnight on Saturday morning at a party hosted by Brown’s Machado house, a space for students interested in Spanish language and Hispanic culture.
Hours earlier, Cuevas had verbally confronted officers regarding their aggression toward party-goers.
A statement released to the Brown community on Saturday evening by Russell Carey, the university’s executive vice president for planning and policy, described the altercation as “heated and physical.” In a campus-wide email, Brown President Christina Paxson stated that the incident is under “active investigation.”
The officer in question, whose identity has not been made public, has been taken off patrol until the investigation is completed.
Dartmouth’s chapter of Lambda Upsilon Lambda fraternity is hosting an “emergency community meeting” today at Cutter-Shabazz Hall in response to the incident, according to a campus-wide email. In the email, LUL pointed to students at other Ivy League schools making demands of administrators in response to the incident.
Numerous students, both at Dartmouth and Brown, took to social media to express outrage over the incident, using the hashtag “#IStandWithGeo.”
In an interview, Cuevas described the officers’ behavior throughout the event as overly aggressive.
“The officers hired as security for the event were rude and disrespectful to people all night, yelling in women’s faces and intimidating people,” he said. “I was the recipient of excessive force by these glorified bouncers.”
Other members of Dartmouth’s Latinx delegation report similar experiences with the event’s security personnel. Dennise Hernández ’17 says she was “affronted” by officers when she tried to enter the party.
“Frankly, the officers were trying to intimidate the students of color,” Hernández said.
Cuevas was also waiting to gain admission when he said he witnessed two officers confront and aggressively pat down an intoxicated Brown student in what he perceived as an abuse of power.
“I voiced my dissent at their inappropriate conduct,” Cuevas said. “They motioned toward me in an intimidating way and told me I would be arrested for trespassing.”
When he informed the officers that he was a guest of the conference and that his hosts were residents of the Machado house, Cuevas says the officers told him that their authority “outrank[ed] Brown students” and that he could “never win against the badge.”
Cuevas decided to remove himself, but informed the officers that, despite their orders that he stay away, he would be returning to the Machado house where he had been assigned to spend the night. About 10 minutes later, Cuevas re-entered the house to find his hosts and was quickly “slammed to the ground,” physically restrained and handcuffed by an officer who threatened to use pepper spray to subdue him. Cuevas said that he never resisted detainment.
“[The officer] told me that I was resisting when I simply wasn’t,” Cuevas said.
Hernández, who said she witnessed Cuevas being “dragged” outside by the officer, supported this statement.
“He was clearly not resisting,” she said. “His body was moving like a rag doll.”
Cuevas was detained for 30 minutes, with at least five officers present, before Brown students could arrive at the scene to verify that he was a guest of the conference and of the house. No arrest was made, and no criminal charges were filed.
Cuevas, who says that the officer was not properly trained or “aware of the power dynamics at play” during the altercation, described the experience as “an engagement with white supremacy.”
“Overall, it was an invalidating experience as a person of color,” he said.
Josué Ruiz ’17, who attended the conference, says the experience was “jarring” for the student delegates at the conference.
“You see police brutality on TV and in all these videos coming out, but you don’t expect it to happen at a conference at a University,” Ruiz said. “We went to talk about the condition of Latinos in the Ivy League, and one of our members gets thrown around by these pseudo-policemen. It was very jarring for us.”
On Sunday evening students who represented Dartmouth at the conference met with College President Phil Hanlon, Provost Carolyn Denver, Dean of the College Rebecca Biron and vice provost for student affairs Inge-Lise Ameer to address the events that took place at the conference.
Twice during the two-hour meeting, students asked that the administration formally ask for the officer in question’s resignation, a request that Cuevas said administrators did not address.
“I directly asked if they thought he should be let go,” Cuevas said.
He said the question was met with “total silence” by the administrators, who have yet to release a statement regarding the incident.
At present, Cuevas is consulting the “legal minds available to [him]” to see what actions can be taken.
Chief of Police for the Brown Department of Public Safety Mark Porter could not be reached for comment by press time.
Addendum: Nov. 16, 2015
Hanlon released a statement on Monday regarding the alleged assault of Cuevas. Hanlon wrote that he was "deeply disturbed" by the reports and that he has expressed his concern to Paxson. He wrote that following the conversation, he believes Brown will conduct a fair investigation and "take necessary steps."
Hanlon, Dever, Biron, Ameer and Assistant Dean Rodrigo Ramirez, who also serves as advisor to Latino students, met with leadership from the Dartmouth delegates that attended the conference and Latinx community leaders, according to the statement.