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Associate professor Anthea Butler lecturing as part of the Judith Roth Berkowitz Lecture series in Feb. 2017. Credit: Joy Lee

What began as a Penn professor’s one-sentence tweet is now a 48-hour, nationwide strike for academics and students to protest against police violence in the United States.

Anthea Butler, associate professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies at Penn, tweeted on Aug. 26 that she would be “down as a professor to follow the NBA and Strike for a few days to protest police violence in America.” 

Just hours after the short tweet, Butler released an official statement about the event to her large Twitter following and called on professors, administrators, adjuncts, and graduate students to join her and participate in the #ScholarStrike. She received thousands of retweets and likes on her initial post about the strike.

Butler had also begun organizing the strike with co-facilitator Kevin Gannon, a history professor at Grand View University in Iowa, since her initial tweet.

From Sept. 8 to Sept. 9, participants are expected to refrain from teaching and administrative duties in efforts to focus on public teach-ins about police brutality and violence particularly against communities of color. 

“While there have been lots of actions previously across the country at colleges and universities about racial justice, Black Lives Matter and police reform and abolition, this is the first time we have come together to do a teach in to focus on these together as professors, students, staff and administrators,” Butler wrote in an emailed statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian. 

Over 5,000 people have since signed up and expressed interest in the event, Butler wrote. The strike may be the biggest collective action by academics in recent memory, according to Inside Higher Ed

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

Penn professor Anthea Butler is organizing a nationwide strike for academics against police violence.

The #ScholarStrike movement comes amid a flood of Black Lives Matter protests sparked by recent police killings and violence against Black people. 

"We believe that it’s of crucial importance for those of us in higher education to take a stand in solidarity with our students and the communities we serve," the Scholar Strike statement reads.

Presidential associate professor in the Annenberg School for Communication Sarah J. Jackson tweeted that she will participate in the strike as well.

Associated with Butler’s efforts, a “Scholar Strike for Black Lives in Canada” with teach-ins and keynote presentations is slated to take place on Sept. 9 and Sept. 10 for Canadian academics. 

With many universities operating virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, Butler told CNN that the strike will function as a “hybrid model of protest.” Participants will have access to a website and YouTube channel with 10-minute lessons about racial injustice and policing, CNN reported, and are encouraged to use social media platforms to spread awareness.

“Along with our friends in Canada, we hope this is the beginning of concerted action, teaching and advocacy to help BIPOC receive justice and equity,” Butler wrote. 

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