While the majority of protests have remained peaceful, the university’s president is calling the group’s latest actions “disgusting” after a banner was burned in front of his home as protesters chanted profanities.
The student-led Northwestern Community Not Cops coalition is demanding university police be abolished, with a focus on investing resources for Black students.
The group authored a petition that has garnered more than 8,000 signatures.
“What people aren’t understanding is the violence of having police on campus, the violence of living as a black person and having to attend Northwestern University is minuscule to the burning of a banner,” a member of NU Community Not Cops said.
Members of the coalition would only speak on the condition that we conceal their identity, fearing retaliation.
Members said they were inspired by protests over the summer following the high-profile cases of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“I, my friends, have all personally experienced being racially profiled by NUPD, being stopped and asked if I attend my school,” the member told NBC 5’s Chris Hush. “We want to go to a school where we feel seen, loved and heard, and we’re not policed and surveilled.”
In an email sent out to students, Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said he was disgusted by those who chose to disgrace the university. In the same letter he said, “While the university has every intention to improve NUPD, there’s absolutely no intention to abolish it.”
Members of NU Community Not Cops called the letter “tone deaf” and “out of character.”
Faculty members within the department of African American studies sent a letter to the school’s president, critical of his response.
“There had been relative silence from the administration on a number of things that the students were protesting,” Dr. Steven W. Thrasher, Daniel Renberg chair of social justice in reporting at NU’s Medill School of Journalism, said.
Evanston’s mayor told NBC 5 that the city of Evanston is already having conversations over use of force and policies within its police department.
“Damage to our community isn’t supporting black lives. Again, I don’t think that’s the majority of the protesters but there are a few that are out there and causing damage,” Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty said.
The university released this statement:
“Northwestern firmly supports the free expression of ideas and vigorous debate – abiding principles that are fundamental for our University. We encourage members of our community to be engaged global citizens and find meaningful ways to get involved and advocate for causes they believe in — and to do so safely and peacefully. We are very disappointed to see that there was vandalism and damage to private and public property during the protest in Evanston last weekend. The University protects the right to protest, but we do not condone breaking the law. Should members of the Northwestern community be found in violation of University policies, state or federal laws, they will be held accountable through our processes.”