#NotAgainSU Protest Shuts Down 2 Blocks Of City Streets Near Syracuse University
Above Photo: People gather to support suspended Syracuse University #notagainsu student protesters as they refuse to leave the Crouse Hinds Hall administration building, Tue. Feb. 18, 2020, at Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y. Scott Schild | email@example.com
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A #NotAgainSU protest shut down two city blocks near Syracuse University for about two hours Wednesday night.
Around 100 students, faculty and supporters gathered in the intersection of South Crouse and Waverly avenues. Syracuse police blocked off Waverly Avenue, from Irving Avenue to Walnut Avenue. The protest also effectively blocked Marshall Street to incoming car traffic.
The latest demonstration was part of a recent series of protests by #NotAgainSU, which formed after a rash of racist, anti-Semitic graffiti was found on campus last semester.
Protesters chanted “No justice! No peace! No racist police!” Many wore black facemasks.
They also interspersed chants of “Where is Kent?” — a reference to the school’s chancellor Kent Syverud.
#NotAgainSU’s organizers had hoped to hold a meeting to negotiate with SU administrators and members of the Board of Trustees at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Organizers have signaled that the protest is in response to SU not agreeing to that meeting.
SU said it will not meet with #NotAgainSU until “everyone agrees to terms that would ensure a substantive and respectful dialogue.” The university said, however, that it has invited students to a meeting at 11 a.m. on Thursday.
Syracuse police responded to the scene on Wednesday night, prominently displaying their body cameras and holding them toward protesters. They have also photographed the protest with professional-style cameras.
#NotAgainSU began occupying Crouse-Hinds Hall on Feb. 17 and have occupied it for 11 days. Administrators and campus police initially attempted to shut down the protest, suspending around 30 students. Officials for two days locked the building to outsiders and refused to let food or other items in, encouraging the protesters to leave.
#NotAgainSU has had visits from legal counsel, concerned parents and students from other colleges including SUNY Binghamton who have expressed solidarity.
Chancellor Kent Syverud, urged by faculty, lifted protesters’ suspensions and directed staff to stand down in efforts to stop the protest.
Now campus officials are treating the protest like the eight-day sit-in at the Barnes Center in November. Supporters drop off food, between 30 and 50 protesters freely move in and out of the building, and the schedule includes events like open mic nights and teach-ins about institutional racism with professors.
Since then, the university has hired former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to review the campus police department.
This week, #NotAgainSU signaled it was open to negotiation — but willing to remain in the building as long as it takes for a list of demands to be met.
Those demands include resignations from top campus officials including Syverud and two leaders of the Department of Public Safety, which administrators have previously signaled are not negotiable.
A list of 18 demands, originally formed during last semester’s protests, has grown to 34.
Organizers say that’s partly because they say administrators have not genuinely delivered on promises they’ve made. For example, protesters say the hiring of four new mental health counselors is not adequate, when they demanded the school bring its ratio of counselors to students in line with the national average of one per 500. Organizers say administrator’s declaration that this demand has been “met” is a “blatant lie.”
Because of examples like this, #NotAgainSU organizers say they amended demands to include deadlines, specific requests for money to be allocated to various causes, and the formation of paid student oversight committees.
At least six new demands are directly in response to the university’s handling of this round of protests, organizers say in documents spelling out their concerns.
Syverud appeared to acknowledge the university flubbed its initial response to protests this semester. He reversed suspensions and apologized for the way some students were treated.
“I am not proud of how last week’s events involving student protesters in Crouse-Hinds Hall were handled,” Syverud said in a message to the campus community on Monday.
While university officials vow that by closing the building they were not intentionally depriving students of food, the protesters argue placing any restrictions on their basic needs amounted to violence.
#NotAgainSU in its communications on social media and online has said that lackluster responses are a big part of why they have continued to protest.
“Syracuse University’s repugnant and violent response to #NotAgainSU’s peaceful protest has undeniably illustrated the university’s allegiance to white supremacist institutional violence,” #NotAgainSU writes. “The continued racialized tactics deployed by the university is one of the main reasons why we are currently occupying this building.”
In remarks to the media Monday, an administrator said the students were now welcome to remain in the building as long as they want.
SU’s full statement on the protest:
To be clear: A meeting for 4 p.m. today was never agreed to, scheduled or confirmed. We do, however, hope to continue dialogue with our students, which is why we participated in a two-and-a-half-hour meeting last night with the student protestors to establish parameters that would productively guide our continued engagement. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach agreement around terms.
As Dean of Students Marianne Thomson shared (in writing at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday), the University is eager to participate in continued conversations. She made it very clear that the University will not proceed with a meeting until everyone agrees to terms that would ensure a substantive and respectful dialogue. As no terms were agreed to, no meeting was scheduled.
In an effort to bring everybody back together to reinitiate dialogue, Vice President for the Student Experience Rob Hradsky sent two emails today (one just before noon and the other shortly after) requesting the protestors participate in a meeting this afternoon at 3 p.m. in Crouse-Hinds Hall with external facilitators from Interfaith Works of Central New York. Three student protestors and one faculty advisor participated in this conversation for roughly 45 minutes.
The University remains hopeful that we can come together with student protestors in good faith. To this end, we have reached out to invite our students to a meeting tomorrow at 11 a.m.