Participants of Tuesday’s “die-in” protest in St. Mary’s were told they would be subject to disciplinary action, according to demonstrator Danny De Leon, A&S ’15.
Updated Dec. 14, 1:16 p.m.: At the conclusion of Tuesday’s “die-in” protest in St. Mary’s Hall, Barbara Jones, vice president of Student Affairs, offered to meet with student demonstrators during her office hours on Friday, Dec. 12. Students met in groups of four with Jones and Ines Maturana Sendoya, director of the Office of AHANA Student Programs, on Friday afternoon. According to Danny De Leon, one of the participants in the “die-in” and A&S ’15, at the conclusion of his meeting with Jones he was told by her all protesters were subject to disciplinary sanctions. It has not been confirmed whether the University will move forward with these sanctions. The University has been unavailable for comment.
“She mentioned at the very end of everything, ‘I just wanted you guys to know that anybody who participated in this demonstration that BCPD has pictures of everyone and everyone is subject to disciplinary action,’” said De Leon. “That kind of threw us off.”
The demonstration was staged to coincide with a University Chorale concert scheduled at the same time in the newly reopened St. Mary’s Chapel. Its aim, according to most participants, was to pressure the University to formally condemn the Grand Jury decision not to indict the police officers responsible in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
In De Leon’s account of the meeting, he was told by Jones that the University does not usually release formal statements concerning issues like this.
“We want a statement from the university,” said De Leon. “We can talk about all this, but realistically, we want to know why you’re not putting out a statement.”
After a first group of protesters successfully entered the building, members of BCPD blocked the doors to St. Mary’s to prevent demonstrators from entering. The doors were eventually opened to let in the audience for the Chorale concert. According to De Leon, protesters were also allowed in under the condition that they did not disrupt the event.
“He [the officer] said, ‘Well honestly as long as you’re not being disruptive, you can come in,’” said De Leon.
The Black Student Forum had planned to stage a similar “die-in” protest, but the University rejected their request. Tuesday’s demonstrators emphasized that they were unaffiliated with any student group. According to De Leon, students were told Friday that they were in violation of University policy that requires a permit before a protest or demonstration. Additionally, because St. Mary’s is leased to the Jesuits, it is not technically University property and students could be charged with trespassing, per De Leon’s meeting with Jones.
“She said that if we were involved, we would be receiving letters telling us what the sanctions were,” De Leon said.
“Disciplinary action against anyone who participated in the die-in must be reconsidered,” said BC associate professor of English and African & African Diaspora Studies Rhonda Frederick in an email. “It is not clear whether a thorough investigation was conducted before Vice President for Student Affairs, Barbara Jones, approached a group of students to discuss disciplinary sanctions. Such an investigation would have shown that students where allowed to enter St. Mary’s Hall ‘provided that they weren’t disruptive.’ They were not.”
According to Frederick, who was part of Tuesday’s “die-in,” a member of BCPD photographed the first wave of protesters. She photographed the officer as he took her picture. This officer has since been identified as Detective Sergeant David Flaherty, who oversees the Bureau of Investigative Services at BC. De Leon seconded Frederick’s report, and added that several protesters voluntarily provided their contact information to BCPD after the demonstration.
When asked for comment, John King, chief of BCPD, referred the matter to Jones, as it relates to student conduct.
While Jones has issued no statement on this weekend’s developments, she did comment on the demonstration earlier this week.
“The University understands the students’ desire to express themselves and engage with the University about issues of concern,” said Jones in an email to The Heights. “We have many avenues for student expression including the opportunity to have permitted rallies and demonstrations. The disruption last night was not a permitted event. That it happened in St. Mary’s, the home of the Jesuits, is completely unacceptable.”
A Facebook status on De Leon’s meeting with Jones went viral Friday evening. Screen captured by Evan Goldstein, A&S ’15, and posted to Twitter, De Leon’s message now has over 650 retweets and 300 favorites.
— Evan Goldstein (@egoldstein93) December 13, 2014
Editor-in-Chief John Wiley and A1 Editor Julie Orenstein contributed to this report.
Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor