A group of at least 80 students and a few faculty peacefully marched on College Hall early yesterday morning, demanding to speak with President Amy Gutmann. The group, clad in black clothing, expressed concern about racial profiling as well as the recent mistaken arrest of a black student by Penn Police.
After two hours of silent protest on the building's front steps and in its lobby beginning at 9:00 a.m., three designated student representatives from the group -- which called itself the Coalition of Concerned Students -- were allowed to meet with Gutmann, Interim Provost Peter Conn and Chaplain William Gipson. All parties seemed to emerge from the talk satisfied, with organizers calling it a success and administrators describing the protest as well-organized and impressive.
A portion of the protest group convened at 8:15 a.m. outside the Division of Public Safety headquarters, located at 4040 Chestnut St. From there the group walked in a double-file line down Locust Walk, picking up additional protesters at Huntsman Hall as well as at 37th and 36th streets.
"As we marched down Locust Walk, I got goose bumps," College sophomore Warith Deen Madyun said.
On Nov. 21, Madyun was erroneously stopped and handcuffed by Penn Police. He has claimed that police officers exercised excessive violence in apprehending him by slamming him to the ground and shoving him against a flyer kiosk.
When the group, led by Madyun and four others, finally arrived at College Hall, they remained in a double-file formation, lining up at the base of the building's steps and extending out in the direction of the Benjamin Franklin statue. Protesters also stood against the inside walls of the College Hall lobby. A short time after 9:00 a.m., the protesters outside moved up onto the College Hall steps and extended their line from there.
The two students at the front of the line outside held signs that read, "Do I fit the description?" and "Students against racial profiling."
"This is in direct response to what happened to Warith Deen," College junior Desiree Tunstall said. One of those who helped to organize the protest, Tunstall noted, however, that the demonstration also aimed to address the broader issues of racial profiling and police brutality.
The protesters arrived, however, only to find that Gutmann was not there and that her office door was locked.
"If we don't see her, we're going to stand here all day," protest organizer and College Sophomore Ibraheem Basir said at approximately 9:30 a.m.
Shortly thereafter the group learned that Gutmann was at a meeting off-campus and that when she returned later in the day she planned to meet with Madyun, Basir, and College junior Elizabeth Curtis-Bey.
Protest organizer and College junior Kelechi Okere noted that it was a conscious decision to stage a silent protest, as opposed to a more boisterous one with chanting.
"Why we are here stands for itself," he said.
Onlooker and graduate student Deirdre Brill noted that the silent protest strategy "seems really effective. It shows the gravity of it, how solemn it is."
Conn seemed to agree with her sentiments.
"I thought it was an exceptionally impressive demonstration," Conn said, noting that it was "extremely orderly" and well-organized.
The organizers were equally pleased, as Madyun called it a "major success."
When Gutmann emerged from the hour-long meeting with the students around noon, she was greeted with applause by the protesters.
Speaking briefly to the group, Gutmann said that she was "very proud" of the protesters and that she is committed to addressing the their concerns.Comments powered by Disqus
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