Over Alumni Weekend, protestors demonstrated in the Glass Pavilion during the President and Deans’ Breakfast on Saturday to call for an end to the University’s contracts with ICE and for the University to halt its plans to create a private police force. The protestors were a part of a larger sit-in protest of approximately 75 students, members of the Baltimore community and faculty members that began on 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 3 in Garland Hall.
As of time of publication, the sit-in protest has lasted for over 100 hours. It is organized by Students Against Private Police (SAPP) and the Hopkins Coalition Against ICE.
During University President Ronald J. Daniels’ breakfast with alumni, some protesters from the sit-in took to the stage in the Glass Pavilion while Daniels was speaking. Daniels granted the demonstrators two minutes to speak; they spoke for longer than two minutes but were not removed from the building.
At the alumni breakfast, protesters discussed the University’s failure to address sexual assault cases and the militarization of the Baltimore Police Department and the University. The protestors also denounced a Morgan State University police officer’s involvement in the death of Tyrone West, an unarmed black man from Baltimore who died in 2013 from injuries sustained in police custody. They also accused the University administration of filming them while they slept in Garland Hall during their sit-in.
Vice President of Communications Susan Ridge responded to this claim.
“For health, safety and facilities management, we will be monitoring and documenting as appropriate inside Garland Hall,“ Ridge wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “Photos or other documentation may be deleted if not otherwise needed (as they were earlier this week), and student protestors have been made aware of this protocol.”
While the protesters were speaking at the breakfast, one alum said, “Don’t let them take over. Get them off the stage.”
Another alum got into a discussion about the possibility of racial profiling with a protester.
“I know I’m white and therefore I don’t know anything. And only black people understand -- what, you’re 21 and you think you understand?” the alum said.
Graduate student Andrea Fraser is one of the leaders of the student sit-in at Garland. They described some of the interactions between the alumni and the demonstrators at the breakfast.
“This is Alumni Weekend — a lot of people are coming here to enjoy the campus and give more money to an institution that supports militarization, training ICE agents and criminalizing my neighbors,” they said. “So we brought students and my neighbors to disrupt the meeting and we were confronted by a lot of older people who didn’t understand what was going on and felt attacked and insulted.”
Fraser explained that organizers chose to demonstrate at the Alumni Weekend breakfast in order to confront Daniels directly.
“The whole point was you don’t get to sit here and enjoy this campus and this city while people are suffering and while you are actively giving money to the militarization of Baltimore and separation of families at the border,“ they said. “We wanted to give a message to Ronald Daniels that he is complicit.”
Sophomore Bentley Addison, who has taken part in the sit-in, explained the motivation behind the protest at the breakfast.
“Our purpose of the event wasn’t to make individual alumni change their minds but to inform alumni who aren’t aware and show Ronald Daniels that we are serious,” he said.
Peter Doob, Class of 1969, had not been aware of the issues that were brought up during the protest, and believed that other alumni might also be uninformed.
“I had to get some better understanding of what the issue was. I’m sure Ronald Daniels knew what it was, but I think the alumni are unable to process what was going on. Maybe they felt that their breakfast with the President was unfairly interrupted,” he said.
After the protesters finished speaking onstage, they walked around the outside of the Glass Pavilion chanting “JHU shame on you.” Addison felt that the alumni response to the protestors was mixed.
“There was a lot of racist and offensive things said by the alumni which was to be expected,“ he said. “But there were a decent amount of alumni that were supportive. They just weren’t the loudest.”
James Fearon, Class of 1981, supported the students’ demonstrations against ICE and private police, but acknowledged that other alumni may be upset by it.
“It’s about time that students had a voice in alumni affairs, and crusty alumni like me have to hear what’s going on,“ he said. “It’s good to see the student population cares more about public issues than grades.”
Some alumni praised the University administrators for the way they handled the protesters. Fearon approved of Daniels’ behavior.
“This was peaceful and it’s not really that disruptive,“ he said. “I admire the University president for letting it happen and giving them the voice they want.”
Following the protest at the breakfast in the Glass Pavilion, SAPP and Hopkins Coalition Against ICE released a joint statement regarding their action. They stated that the protest was in response to a conversation that members of SAPP had with Daniels on the first day of the protests. According to the statement, members of SAPP felt that Daniels had been dismissive of their demands.
“He has consistently refused to engage with the vast and meaningful opposition to the private police proposal and ongoing contracts with ICE,“ the statement reads. “As we look to Day 5 of our occupation, our demands are steadfast: No private police. End the contracts with ICE. Justice for Tyrone West.”
Later on Saturday, alum Kobi Little, who is president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Baltimore, and Maryland State Senator Mary Washington visited Garland Hall to offer support for the sit-in.
Vice President of Communications Susan Ridge gave a statement on the University administration’s position on the continued protest in Garland Hall.
“Johns Hopkins University embraces and fosters a culture of free expression and debate. We worked with our students several years ago to develop guidelines to support student protests, which have allowed us to ensure a safe environment as students and others in our university community express their views on a broad range of issues,“ she wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Ridge stated that the University administration has not changed its position on the JHU-ICE contracts and the private police force. She explained that the University has been and will continue to work with the organizers of the protest.
“The Johns Hopkins student affairs team has been liaising with the protest’s student leaders, and we are working to assure the safety and continuity of campus business and events. Protestors have been free to come and go in Garland Hall during regular business hours and can bring or receive deliveries of food or other necessities,“ she wrote. “Protestors also have been permitted to remain inside the building in limited areas after the doors officially close for the night (at 6 pm).”
According to organizers, most of the demonstrators have not spent the night in Garland Hall, which locks its doors at 6 p.m. About 15 demonstrators have spent at least one night in the building. Exchange Student Adela Chelminski participated in the sit-in, and commented on the protest’s progress.
“It’s going pretty well. We have a very large group of people and this room is pretty much always full, at night and otherwise,” Chelminski said.
Sophomore Barae Hirsch helped organize the protest and felt that the progress has been slow in getting administration to respond to their demands.
“They’ve told us that basically they are just letting us stay here, but they are in no way making any comment regarding our demands and we’ve only been able to talk to middle-level people who have said that the leadership is basically determining their decisions, and so they’re not going to change,” Hirsch said. “We really are in flux right now. As of now, we are here, everyone is welcome.”