Cornell ‘Black Lives Matter’ Demonstrators Lead Anti-Police-Themed March Through Campus

Days after controversial police-involved shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina, Cornell students led a march across Central Campus and a demonstration on Ho Plaza

The demonstration marches down Ho Plaza (photo credit Steven Davies '19)

“Hey hey, ho ho, these racist cops have got to go!” “No justice, no peace!” “I can’t breathe!” And so went the chants from around 150 Cornell students and faculty as a ‘Black Lives Matter’ demonstration, sponsored by Cornell’s Black Students United, marched through the Arts Quad and onto Ho Plaza Friday afternoon. The event took place just days after controversial police-involved shootings of black suspects in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina.

The rally began with the reading of names of black people who died in police confrontations. Next came a reading of the seemingly-innocent actions of these people that lead to their fatalities: “reaching for a wallet, sleeping in a car, walking home, playing loud music, playing with a toy gun…these words represent some of the actions that took place before the senseless and unjust murders of innocent black people at the hands of law enforcement in America.” The demands of the BLM movement were then recited, with the most prominent objective being to “end the war on black people in America.”

The march then proceeded down Thurston Avenue and onto the arts quad. Samari Gilbert ’17, President Emeritus of Black Students United, was briefly interviewed and stated that the purpose of the march was to protest and raise awareness about the variety of issues that blacks in America face, especially the “unacceptable murders” at the hands of police. Gilbert, in a very mature manner, also attempted to high-five Review reporters before the interview, calling them a profane name (see video of march).

The protest ended on Ho Plaza with a call to solidarity and victory: “It is our duty to win…we must love each other and support each other…we have nothing left to lose but our chains.”

While there is no problem with supporting interracial and intraracial solidarity, other aspects of the demonstration really leave questions to be answered. For instance, why was so much of this dedicated to an attack on American law enforcement? According to Washington Post statistics, half of fatal police shootings in 2015 involved white perpetrators, while only 26% involved blacks. Of the deaths of “unarmed” individuals, 32 suspects were white and 38 were black; this is not a significant difference, and certainly does not demonstrate a “war on black people” being fought by US police.

The same source also says of unarmed shootings:

The “unarmed” label is literally accurate, but it frequently fails to convey highly-charged policing situations. In a number of cases, if the victim ended up being unarmed, it was certainly not for lack of trying. At least five black victims had reportedly tried to grab the officer’s gun, or had been beating the cop with his own equipment. Some were shot from an accidental discharge triggered by their own assault on the officer.

Demonstrators held up a variety of interesting signs (photo credit Glenn Dornbaum)

Demonstrators held up a variety of interesting signs (photo credit Glenn Dornbaum ’17)

Even if several shootings were truly unjustified, the anti-police rhetoric spouted by these protestors only serves to paint them as hypocrites: they want American society to treat them fairly and equally, but refuse to treat fairly the millions of law enforcement personnel who risk their lives daily and do a flawless job of keeping communities safe. If they do not want society to stereotype them and rely on past racial prejudices, then maybe they should obey these principles, halt their own prejudice, and stop stereotyping figures such as law enforcement personnel.

Another sensible move would be to stop using Assata Shakur, a convicted cop-killing terrorist as their role model, as well as praising “protests” such as those in Charlotte (which the students did in their closing speech). The Charlotte riots have already claimed a civilian life and involved the burning and looting that are unfortunately characteristic of those sorts of demonstrations. Praising such violence only further invalidates their legitimacy.

In summary, there is no issue with students exercising their right to protest, and there is no denying that blacks in America certainly do face some unfortunate social injustices. But rather than focusing blame solely on incidents involving law enforcement and holding demonstrations that come off as aggressive and intimidating to bystanders, it would behoove Black Lives Matter activists to instead focus on a wider variety of causes of social disadvantage (to their credit, some of these, such as community investment and economic improvement, are mentioned in their list of demands). They must understand that only through civilized discourse and a shedding of extreme anti-police and anti-societal prejudice will true social progress be achieved.



4 Comments on Cornell ‘Black Lives Matter’ Demonstrators Lead Anti-Police-Themed March Through Campus

  1. I need to buy a Make America Great Again hat before the next one of these so that I can walk into the protest and play along with everything but wear the hat the entire time.

  2. Todd Elliott Koger // September 24, 2016 at 6:23 am //

    The black community owes the Democratic Party NOTHING. It’s the Democrats continued facetiously, disturbing and arrogant attitude.

    As if those of us still living in the ‘hood and mapping the plight of black lives “don’t feel some kind of way” when we hear our black President, the Congressional Black Caucus, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Donna Brazile, Bakari Sellers, Angela Ryne, Van Jones criticizing Donald Trump’s portrayal of the seriousness of our need . . .

    TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, and AWFUL are the appropriate negative words and an accurate assessment. We turned out and backed the Democratic Party for more than 50 years. In exchange for our blind loyalty we didn’t get nothing.

  3. This headline is inaccurate,thoughtless, irresponsible and plays into the fears of others. This protest was not anti-police. The chant, “Hey hey, ho ho, these racist cops have got to go” is not anti-police. It is anti- racist police. Calling it anti-police demeans it and minimizes the good this kind of protest can achieve.

  4. Anti-police?! That’s an awefuly slanted piece of reporting.

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