US: Black Columbia Student’s Confrontation With Security Becomes Flashpoint Over Racism on Campus - PressFrom - US
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USBlack Columbia Student’s Confrontation With Security Becomes Flashpoint Over Racism on Campus

18:50  20 april  2019
18:50  20 april  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

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Several students said black students having to prove their identity more than other students was an ongoing issue at the university. A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: A Student ’ s Effort to Confront Racism on Campus .

Alexander McNab, a black Columbia University senior, was walking through the gates of Barnard College Because the narrative for some was that Obama was proof that racism was over . If this was a white student who was barefoot on campus , you can damn sure they wouldn’t be asked for ID.

Black Columbia Student’s Confrontation With Security Becomes Flashpoint Over Racism on Campus© José Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times Alexander McNab, 23, said he hoped that his encounter with campus security officers would start a conversation about racial bias at Barnard College and Columbia University.

Alexander McNab, a black Columbia University senior, was walking through the gates of Barnard College on his way to the library at about 11:30 p.m. last Thursday.

He heard a voice calling out “Hello, Sir,” repeatedly, after he had entered the gates. He figured it was a school public safety officer, wanting to see his school ID.

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Mr. McNab had been stopped several times around campus recently — when students wouldn’t normally be asked to show ID, he said — and he thought to himself, “not this time,” and kept walking.

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Within a few minutes, Mr. McNab was being forcibly pinned down by public safety officers inside the library. And within 24 hours, a video of the encounter had gone viral, drawing accusations of racial profiling and adding to a broader conversation about how students of color are treated at one of the country’s most prominent universities.

The incident has highlighted growing tensions between students, the administration and public safety officers, and has led to several protests and listening groups over the past week. A petition stating that acts of harassment by Barnard and Columbia public safety officers against people of color are daily occurrences has been signed by dozens of student groups, 15 professors and some 2,000 individuals.

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A black Columbia University student was pinned down by public safety officers after failing to show his student identification card, sparking a heated confrontation that led to several officers being placed on leave, university officials said. Footage of the incident late Thursday showed Alexander Cecil McNab

In an interview, Mr. McNab said he “intended this to be a communicative act” and he had decided to keep walking to draw attention to how students of color seemed to be asked to show their IDs more often than white students.

“What I realized,” he added, “is every time I show my ID when I’m asked, the conversation about this remains silent.”

But, he said, he did not intend for the encounter become physical: “Neither my words nor my body at any point connoted any form of threat to them.”

On Friday, the five officers and their supervisor were placed on paid administrative leave by Barnard and the school said it had hired an independent firm to investigate the encounter. Barnard, a women’s college that is part of Columbia but has its own administration and public safety department, released a statement, calling the incident “unfortunate.” Columbia University’s three undergraduate deans sent a note to students decrying racism and calling the incident “disturbing.”

A black college student went looking for free food. He ended up pinned down by campus police.

A black college student went looking for free food. He ended up pinned down by campus police. It was 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, and the Columbia University senior had just left his late-night Afro-beats dance practice. By the end of the night, he would find himself the latest subject of another viral video about racial profiling.

At a demonstration, student protesters chanted, “No police on my campus !” and “No justice, no peace/Fuck these racist police!” Barnard’ s student government association wrote that the McNab “incident reflects systemic racism and police brutality against Black people throughout our nation.”

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On Sunday, Sian Leah Beilock, Barnard’s president, went further, sending a letter to the school’s community noting she understood there was “a pervasive sense that racial bias remains pernicious on our campus,” and apologizing to Mr. McNab. She has since met with him to apologize in person.

“The confrontation,” she wrote in her letter, “puts into stark relief what some members of the Barnard College community, particularly people of color, have been saying about their relationship with the Office of Public Safety and the lack of trust they have in it to keep them safe.”

Mr. McNab, 23, an anthropology student, said in the interview that he had been asked to show his ID three other times in recent months. Each time, he said, he felt he was stopped because of his race and appearance, but had complied.

One time, a group of officers approached him in a hallway at Barnard, while he was taking a break from his Afrobeats dance practice. He was barefoot, because he dances barefoot. They asked to see his ID, he said, and told him there was a problem with homeless people sleeping at the college.

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Several students said black students having to prove their identity more than other students was an ongoing issue at the university.

“This is not an isolated incident, and we urge the school to not consider it as such,” Robrenisha Williams, 22, a Barnard senior and vice president of the Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters, said on Tuesday.

Tirzah Anderson, 18, who is a representative on the Barnard student government, said she hears “pretty often” from students of color that public safety officers asked for ID when they were walking through campus, “even though they just saw other people walk by and they weren’t asked.”

Mr. McNab said on Tuesday that he knew there was a rule that students were supposed to show ID entering Barnard’s campus after 11 p.m., but he wasn’t aware it was being enforced, because it often was not. The college’s campus is directly across from Columbia, just south of Harlem.

Hungry after dance practice, he said he had checked a Facebook page where students posted when there was food leftover from school events. He said had already entered the Milstein Center, which houses the library, greeted some of the students and had started putting Indian food on a plate, when several public safety officers rushed in.

When asked to show ID by the officers, Mr. McNab said he raised his voice so the other students could hear, and then said no, telling them this was the third time he had been asked recently. When asked to leave the building, he also refused, saying he was a student who had a right to be there; Columbia students are allowed to use Barnard facilities.

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A Barnard spokeswoman said that when Mr. McNab had failed to show his ID at the front gate, the officer had called in a “10-13,” meaning he needed immediate assistance.

“Coupled with the 10-13 call, Mr. McNab’s continued refusal to stop and show his ID once inside a building filled with students was alarming,” said Rochelle Ritchie, the Barnard spokeswoman.

Mr. McNab said he was not asked for ID at the front gate.

The video of the encounter begins as the officers start to get physical, holding Mr. McNab down and then pinning him against a counter.

“You have no right to touch me, take your hands off me,” Mr. McNab is heard saying.

After about 30 seconds, one of the officers relaxes his grip. Mr. McNab, his clothing askew, then agrees to show them his ID and takes it out of his wallet.

The officer then says he will hold on to his ID to verify if he is an active student. After the filming ends, the ID was returned, and Mr. McNab said he was permitted to stay on campus and get food.

Ms. Ritchie said its public safety officers “are trained to not engage in physical contact unless they encounter someone who poses a direct threat to themselves or others.” She added that “at the time that physical contact was made, our officers were not aware that Mr. McNab was a Columbia University student.”

Daria Forde, 21, a junior at Barnard who witnessed the confrontation on Thursday night, questioned the officers’ response. “Public Safety should have just approached him with one officer. I don’t think it needed to be six, and I don’t think he needed to be pinned down at all. The fact that they thought he was actually a threat is very telling.”

“There are people who criticize him and say: He did it on purpose, why didn’t he just show his ID?” she added. “But there are students who wouldn’t have had that same treatment that he did.”

Ms. Forde, who appears in a second video where a security officer tells Ms. Forde to “relax” when she objects to his assertion that Mr. McNab had run into the building, said she had black friends who had been asked for ID while sitting at night on the library steps where students often congregate.

“I think as black students,” she said, “we are heavily racialized and we are not seen as people who are supposed to be here.”

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