Students take protest to Olin, outside chancellor’s house
Hundreds of students expanded the scope of protest activities on campus Thursday afternoon, including marching through Olin Library and protesting on the lawn of the chancellor’s residence.
The “Enough is Enough! Rally for Justice” lasted for around 90 minutes, with protesters starting by walking through Bauer Hall and Olin Library. They proceeded to chant outside the chancellor’s house and walked to the intersection of Skinker and Forsyth Boulevards, where they blocked traffic for around 20 minutes.
The event came as a continuation of both nationwide and campus protests against police brutality and racial discrimination following the grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for killing Michael Brown and Eric Garner over the summer. Brown was shot and killed in August in Ferguson, Mo., while in July, Garner was put in a chokehold by a Staten Island, N.Y., police officer and died from an asthma attack.
Senior Reuben Riggs, a leader from activist group STL Students in Solidarity, said that the protest was intended to bring Chancellor Mark Wrighton’s attention to the importance of the issues of racism and police brutality.
“The chancellor is the ultimate authority at the University and we think that the University needs to take a stance—why not bring the fight right to him? In [Wrighton’s] email, he said that we are fortunate that the unrest is not on our campus, so we brought the unrest to our campus and to his lawn. It’s about taking public space. This is a public issue, something people can’t ignore,” Riggs said.
According to Riggs, the protest began at Bauer Hall because a Board of Trustees meeting about the undergraduate experience was in progress inside the building.
“For so many of us, our undergraduate experience is cast over by a shadow that the University won’t take a stance on this. These are our lives that are in the balance,” Riggs said.
After leaving Bauer, the students entered Olin Library, where group leaders called on watching students to become involved in the movement. The protesters also filled the second floor’s central studying area, continuing to chant as some students looked on with annoyance while others didn’t visibly react. Other onlookers took pictures and video of their protesting peers.
Outside Harbison House, where Wrighton lives, the protesters continued chanting, and Riggs reiterated the demands the group had made at a demonstration on Monday: that the University release a statement taking a stance on events in Ferguson and the ensuing protests, and that Wrighton and other administrators meet with members of STL Students in Solidarity to discuss further demands.
Near the end of the demonstration outside the house, Risa Zwerling Wrighton, the chancellor’s wife, walked onto the porch and told the students “Done” in response to their demands.
.@ChancellorWU's wife just agreed to the demands given to a meeting.
— STLSolidarityStudent (@STLinSolidarity) December 4, 2014
After reading the demands outside the chancellor’s residence, the protesters marched down Forsyth toward Skinker, blocking the eastbound lanes. Among the vehicles stopped by the march was the campus circulator, which emptied of passengers. The protesters continued chanting and marching until they reached the intersection.
Protest organizers arranged the participants to block all four entries to the intersection and led them in chants before commencing a 4 1/2-minute silence to represent the 4 1/2 hours that Michael Brown’s body lay in the street after he was shot.
Police maintained a presence throughout the protest to monitor the situation, parking their cars outside of the intersection blockade and following the protesters as they marched. However, they did not interfere with the students’ activities.
Participants felt that the protest was the best way to make the issue heard by people who hadn’t yet taken interest, and many stressed the importance of interrupting daily campus activities.
Sophomore Steve Wenzel said, “It’s really important to stand in solidarity here at Wash. U. We’re in a bubble and so isolated on campus. Even though Ferguson is so close to us, it sometimes feels like we’re in a different world, and I think it’s really important to remind ourselves that this is what’s going on.”
“I think the best kinds of protests are the ones that do disrupt things to a certain level. If they’re easy to ignore, they’re not working,” Wenzel added. “It’s nothing more than a minor inconvenience, and it just keeps it in your mind. It makes sure these things don’t fade away because when people stop talking about them, as far as people are concerned, they vanish. And these issues don’t ever really vanish.”
Sophomore Jeremy Moses agreed. “People need to have this stuff shoved in their faces to a certain extent,” he said.
Senior Jonathan Karp said that he was especially impressed by the number of students who showed up to the rally and stayed to block traffic.
“We did it on Monday morning and about 40 people joined us, but this was great, this was a few hundred, and it’s so meaningful….I think the student body demonstrated today that they’re dedicated to this fight and we’re in it for the long haul. I’m excited to see what comes in the rest of the semester and into January,” Karp said.
Riggs said he was sure that the protest would have its desired effect because of its size and impact.
“It was incredibly effective. You watch—the University is going to listen. The University is going to make a statement. You tell me how they’re going to deny 500 people rallying on their campus,” he said.
With reporting by Zach Kram, Katie Marcus and Emily Schienvar.