Students march on University President’s house

By MEAGAN PEOPLES | April 18, 2019

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Hopkins and Baltimore community members met for a third rally to protest the Hopkins private police force, University contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and promote Justice for Tyrone West on Wednesday, April 17 in Wyman Park Dell. The rally was organized by members of Students Against Private Police (SAPP), Hopkins Coalition Against ICE (HCAI) and leaders of West Wednesdays, a weekly vigil held in honor of West, who died in 2013 while in police custody. Morgan State University police officers were investigated in conjunction with West’s death. 

Protesters gathered in Wyman Park Dell before marching to join the ongoing sit-in at Garland Hall. Later protesters moved to University President Ronald J. Daniels’ house where they chanted, gave short speeches and played music. 

West’s sister, Tawanda Jones, opened the rally by talking about the circumstances leading to her brother’s death. Jones stated that because she never got justice for her brother’s death, she continues to lead West Wednesdays every week 5 years later. 

“Nobody deserves to have the right to play God, to take someone’s life in such a brutal force and not be held accountable just because he or she wears a badge. It’s utterly ridiculous and unacceptable. That’s why for exactly 298 weeks I’ve been out here — me, my family and supporters have been out here nonstop,” Jones said.

Protesters then marched to outside President Daniels’ house. They chanted slogans such as, “Resign Ron” and “JHU shame on you.” 

In a speech, SAPP member Dre Fraser gave several criticisms of Daniels. They criticized Daniels for staying inside his house, guarded by three security guards, instead of coming out to meet protesters. The News-Letter was unable to confirm if Daniels was inside his house during the protest.

“Ron Daniels — we’re here to tell you you’re a terrible fucking neighbor. Shame on you. Shame on you for being in the safest place in the city to want police. You have three guards sitting here blocking your door, and you’re still going to run your mouth about police,” they said. “Weak, shame, resign, you can’t keep us safe.”

Fraser stated in interview with The News-Letter activists have been organizing rallies in order to emphasize the importance of including the community in protesting the University’s proposed private police force.

“The legislation has been pushed through without community consent, so we’re really here rallying in the streets getting behind a lot of the people who have been demanding justice for a long time,” they said. 

As of press time, the sit-in has lasted for 15 days. Organizers delivered a letter to University administrators asking to open negotiations between protesters, Daniels and Provost Sunil Kumar last Wednesday, April 10. 

The letter demanded that the administrators engage in open negotiations with a reporter from The News-Letter present, along with a mediator not affiliated with Hopkins. The letter also demanded that the University grant academic, professional and legal amnesty for those participating in the sit-in, and send a University-wide email approved by protesters announcing the start of negotiations. 

Administrators have not responded to these demands or met with protesters. 

Fraser stated that moving forward, protesters will continue to push for negotiations. 

“We are going to keep escalating until [Daniels] decides to meet with us,” they said. 

Isaac Dalto said in an interview with The News-Letter that he attended the rally because, as a Baltimore community member, he is concerned about the impact of a Hopkins police force.

“I’m concerned about police brutality,” Dalto said. “I’ve seen 13- and 14-year-old boys, young black kids arrested off of their own front porches for doing nothing on my block.”

Protesters then moved to join members of the sit-in at Garland Hall. While the protest began in the lobby, it later moved to the second floor of Garland as well. Previously administrators had restricted the sit-in to the lobby of Garland Hall.

Fraser noted that this escalation follows protestors’ decision to disregard a previous agreement with administrators that the doors to Garland Hall be locked at 6 p.m. As of Saturday, protesters began entering and leaving the sit-in at all hours. 

“Today we decided to escalate and defy those rules,” they said. “Us and West Wednesdays, Tawanda Jones, and all of our supporters pushed past security and we took the top of Garland Hall.”

Activist and community member Duane “Shorty” Davis, gave a speech in Garland Hall supporting the protesters’ efforts. 

“With the militarization of your campus you’re going to start experiencing things that you don’t want to feel, you’re going to start to feel uncomfortable in a place where you should feel safe. And your job as students is to make them feel uncomfortable where they feel unsafe,” he said. 

In an interview with The News-Letter, Davis emphasized that he is against the presence of guns on a college campus.

“[Hopkins] is not a city — this is a learning institution no different than a high school or a pre-school, so it should not be militarized or with guns,” he said. “No more than you’d want students with guns, why should you have a campus with guns?”

Davis further praised the commitment of the protesters, likening them to the activists who demonstrated following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“[The protesters] are willing to put aside their own comfort for someone else’s distress. So yeah, I applaud this; this is a resurgence. I’m 60 years old and to see this again, it’s like seeing history repeat itself in a good way,” he said.

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