BSU plans more protests, students upset with EB Police

Henry Crumblish

Henry Crumblish

Henry Crumblish, Scene Editor

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Black Student Union (BSU) held a protest April 13 against police brutality due to the murder of Stephon Clark, a young black male from Sacramento, who was shot more than 20 times by police officers in his grandmother’s backyard for holding a cellphone which law enforcement allegedly mistook for a firearm.

 Only one day after the protest, footage of CWU student Keiwuan Miller, an African-American male, being thrown on the ground and placed in  handcuffs outside of Club 301 surfaced on Twitter.

Miller allegedly cut in line in front of Club 301 Saturday night, which led to the altercation between the student and Ellensburg Police. He was cited and released later.

The video went viral over the weekend and has generated more than 29,000 views. It is a digital account of mistreatment by police, which many minority students at CWU live in fear of.

 Jasmin Washington, president of BSU and organizer of the protest, said the protest against police brutality was a necessity.

“We’re out here ensuring our safety here and off campus,” Washington said.  

 Washington said while she has not had any negative experiences with law enforcement, her family has. Washington’s 18-year-old brother was arrested by police last year.  

“Basically, he was in a stolen car he didn’t know was stolen and they arrested everyone in the car without asking questions,” she said.

 To complicate the matter, Washington’s brother is a schizophrenic.

“They did not realize he had schizophrenia… they eventually dropped all the charges once they realized he was mentally ill,” Washington said.

The BSU president invited CWU Campus Police to be part of the recent protest but Washington said she was disappointed by the lack of collaboration between the two groups despite the successful protest.

 According to Washington, Campus Police were expected to stand behind BSU as a symbol of solidarity against police brutality. During the protest campus police had five officers present in the SURC, while the majority watched the protest from the second floor.

 CWU Police Chief Jason Berthon-Koch said he would have given a talk to everyone involved had he been able to attend but unable to due to an illness.

“We’re here for your safety. We’re here for your security. We stand with you as students with your freedom of expression,” Berthon-Koch said. “I promise you, if I could’ve walked I would have been there.”

 Berthon-Koch said campus police must remain a neutral party during expressive activities while in uniform, despite how officers may feel personally.

 “Our protocol is to monitor the situation and to make sure everybody involved has a safe outcome and successful outcome to what they’re trying to accomplish,” he said.

 Berthon-Koch, who is also an adviser for Brother to Brother, spoke on the incident in front of Club 301 at Know your Rights on Monday. Know Your Rights was a workshop between campus police and BSU where students learned proper approaches to dealing with police.

Ellensburg PD did not return the Observer’s phone calls despite multiple attempts. The department did post a response on their Facebook page addressing the incident on Tuesday evening.

 During Friday’s protest, several students stopped to show support for protesters in the SURC and many even joined by grabbing signs, chanting and shouting out against injustice and racial profiling.

Members of BSU did not feel the same unity and support from the CWU campus police.

Maurice Watkins, Equity and Services Council representative for BSU, has participated in multiple protests, including a Black Lives Matter protest in Seattle. Watkins said he was not happy with the police presence in the SURC on Friday.

“They were nonchalantly standing around and I didn’t necessarily feel the support, I didn’t feel the comfort, I didn’t feel like they were here to protect us. I felt like they were here because they already agreed to it,” Watkins said.

Due to CWU Police presence on the second floor, many members of BSU felt defenseless during the protest in the event of an attack from someone on campus with an opposing viewpoint.

Jaeana Davis, vice president of BSU, feared for her safety while lying on the floor of the SURC. Davis has experienced police brutality firsthand.

“It’s still something I’m going through now, I’m still going through court stuff now,” Davis said.

The protest was an opportunity for Davis and other victims of police brutality to release pent-up frustration and emotions for law enforcement peacefully.

During the protest Davis was joined by her boyfriend, Dom Baker who laid on the ground and held her hand.

“He was kind of scared to do it. He was nervous to come out because ‘I’m a white man. I don’t deal with this. How does it look for me to come and lay on the floor like I’m somebody that goes through this?’” Davis said.

Davis believes that demonstrating and being an active participant during protests is a way for anyone, not just African Americans, to be an ally against injustice.

“Police brutality comes in all shapes and forms. It doesn’t just come in murder, it doesn’t just come in shooting, it comes in mental abuse, it comes in neglect of a criminal in your eyes who needs the same help as anyone else does,” Davis said.

For Africans Americans and people of color in the United States, there is a real fear of law enforcement. This is especially true for Jasmin Washington.

“I get this feeling in my chest, even though I know nothing’s gonna happen… but you can never be too sure,” Washington said. “I think that’s how all our black students here feel. They never know. You never know if you’re running into a bad cop or a good cop. No matter if you’re a good person or a bad person. You can never be too sure.”

Berthon-Koch wants to prove to students that campus police do not match the negative perception of policing.

“We’re open to partnering on community activities that build community collaboration,” Berthon-Koch said. “I want to build an inclusive community where everybody feels safe to come to Central, for one, and they feel safe to come to the police department.”

Davis says that BSU is not looking to start a conflict with any groups on campus or in town.

“We’re trying to give ourselves the equal rights that we deserve and we are trying to give ourselves the lives that we deserve,” Davis said.

 

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1 Comment

One Response to “BSU plans more protests, students upset with EB Police”

  1. April Divens on April 21st, 2018 3:54 pm

    Thankyou so much! This is a great read.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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BSU plans more protests, students upset with EB Police