Over the past month in the United States, the protests over police brutality have forced us to re-examine how we go about our daily lives when thinking about race relations. For myself, I have re-examined political beliefs and opened my eyes to new ideas and thoughts. For my college, this past month has put a spotlight on the need to listen to BIPOC and other minority students.
On June 1st, students from my university, Clark University, were arrested when a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest turned violent. Several of the students arrested were simply filming the protest and were not causing problems. None of the students were responsible for any damage or caused damage to any property. The resulting arrests led to student injuries such as bruises and scrapes, and outcry from the student body, as these students were arrested within feet of the university campus. Within 24 hours of the incident, the administration sided with the arrested students and said that they would end hiring non-campus police for events and patrols.
While the administration’s decisions outraged the City Council and the police, it galvanized students to push for reforms. The Black Student Union sent out a list of requests for the administration to adhere to as a marker of support for the marginalized people of our university. According to College Factual, non-caucasian students made up 44% of the student body. Among these requests, the Black Student Union demanded that the University implement anti-racist training for staff and students, cut all ties with the city police, have more African American mental health providers, and more transparency with investigating reports of bias and racial incidents, including having a Black representative on the review panel. In response, the university agreed to some of the demands such as promising to hire a BIPOC mental health counselor but has not satisfied all of the requests made by the Black Student Union. In response, the Black Student Union, alongside student campus organizations have led a movement called for the removal of advertising material featuring the use of BIPOC students on the university’s page. This organized action is to shine a light on the exploitation of BIPOC students to show diversity, but not truly fighting for anti-racist and equality for all students.
In addition to the changes pushed for by BIPOC campus organizations, a city-wide effort to transfer funds from the Worcester Police Department to other places such as schools, and mental health facilities have taken hold. The movement, Defund WPD, came to prominence after many citizens were concerned by the aggressive actions displayed by Worcester Police in early June from the Black Lives Matter protests. Many people learned that the City Council was planning on increasing the budget of the Worcester Police Department by $250,000 for the next fiscal year. Despite outcry by the public who flooded the City Council meetings with calls and pleas to reroute the money, the Council unanimously approved the budget and sided with the police over those who have called for accountability. The outrage over the initial decision brought a torrent of emails, calls, and protestors to City Hall. After a deluge of calls and citizens making their voices heard, the City Council unanimously decided to reconsider the budget during their meeting on June 23rd. While a step in the right direction, Defunding Worcester Police Department could only be done by those who were spurred by protests across the country looking for a change. In addition to the movements in Worcester, another project brought nationwide attention to legislators taking police union money.
After watching the lack of action from politicians on police reform, one student became interested in how much money elected officials took from police unions. His research became a nationwide movement to hold officials accountable for making a change to their community. A college student from John Jay University tracked how much money members of his state assembly were receiving from the police. His project went viral and ended up having legislators donate money taken by police and similar unions to bail funds and other Black organizations. At this moment tens of thousands of dollars have been donated to funds and other organizations from politicians who have taken money from police unions. After making national news, many other spin-off projects sprouted, creating awareness of those who have taken money from police, corrections, or other agencies that could lobby against meaningful police reform. If you are interested in seeing if your legislator has taken money, here is the link. (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1bu1wXgR8WKxhiF46W_VcVjk86myBC47S6bIfD8bwqic/edit#gid=830940746)
As a result of the Black Lives Matter Protests, people have gone beyond just protesting, they have begun to advocate and demand change through their own means. From my own university’s Black Student Union’s push to remove advertising of BIPOC, to standing up against police budget increases, to a college student going viral for showing how much politicians take from police unions, the Black Lives Matter movement will likely going to have a huge impact on the future of policing.