As crime soars, UChicago students call to disband campus police
Dozens of students from the University of Chicago began a multi-day protesting campaign on demanding, among other things, that the university police department be disbanded.
This comes despite a recent spike in violent crime and general unrest in the Chicago area.
According to the Chicago Tribune, a group of student protesters began marching through UChicago’s campus and the surrounding neighborhoods to protest the existence of the institution’s police department. The group eventually stopped in front of Provost Ka Yee Lee’s house, where they campused out for at least seven days. One of the protest’s organizers, Alicia Hurtado, called the demonstration an “occupation” on her personal Twitter account.
Of note is the fact that the area of south Chicago surrounding the university’s campus sees a significant amount of crime and is currently patrolled by the University of Chicago Police Department.
[RELATED: Chicago students call to cut ties with police despite city’s 139 percent murder spike]
The students' demands include the full disclosure of the department's budget, a 50 percent reduction in said budget, disarmament of officers, and the total abolition of the university’s police by 2022. The students want the funds that currently go to the police to instead be distributed to students of color and to ethnic studies.
On August 28, the large group of students spent hours demonstrating outside Lee’s home.
Hurtado used a megaphone to lead a number of chants aimed at Lee. These chants included, calling cops “racist a** cops," mocking Lee for being unable to sleep, and repeating “shame” over and over again.
Activists were also filmed banging snare drums, shining flashlights into Lee’s windows, and spamming her doorbell.
A number of individuals can be seen throughout the live stream talking to police. When they felt as if they may be arrested, Hurtado ordered students to get in front of everyone to serve as a barrier. In doing so the students blocked a residential road.
Near the end of their roughly hour-long chanting session the group mockingly chanted “Are you scared?” at Lee.
Campus Reform reached out to a number of students and organizations involved in the event for their thoughts on abolishing police in the midst of a historic crime wave and about how they think violent crime should be handled in the absence of the police
Campus Reform did not hear back from any of them in time for publication.
When asked by the Chicago Tribune about their motivations, one activist said that “As a Black student, I would say UCPD doesn’t make me feel safe at all, what makes me feel safe is my sense of community that I’ve built here with other students of color, with other organizers.” Another said that “while some may say we need the University of Chicago Police Department to keep us safe … they’re not. Safety shouldn’t come at the expense of another person and of another group. And we’re here as students to demand of our university to do the right thing.”
In response to a request for comment from Campus Reform a spokesperson for the University of Chicago stated that they have "taken steps" to "understand experiences with the UCPD."
“In order to build on the transformative changes the UCPD has undertaken over the past 10 years, the University has pledged to take steps to understand experiences with the UCPD and continue striving to make our practices a model for higher education and the law enforcement community," the spokesperson said.
Such steps include “organizing a series of meetings with people from across our campus and in local communities, providing UCPD leadership with the opportunity to hear directly from faculty, students, staff, and community residents”
The spokesperson told Campus Reform that the university “will schedule a public forum to discuss issues” raised by its community.
The University of Chicago also referred Campus Reform to prior statements released by university President Robert Zimmer and Lee where they said “recent local and national dialogue concerning systemic racism has been cause for examination and reflection regarding the role of law enforcement in our society” but affirmed that “The University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) provides a vital service in helping to keep safe and support our campus and surrounding communities. “
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @RobertSchmad