To the Editor:
On the night of Nov. 17, at a non-violent anti-Trump protest, tuition-paying students at the University of Pittsburgh were forced out of the spaces that exist and are maintained solely for their use by brutal force wielded by police who are paid through these students’ tuition.
The action on Nov. 17 was initially planned by Pitt Against Debt to protest tuition hikes. After the election, it was decided that we can no longer pretend all of the issues that impact us are not connected. Pitt Against Debt, Pittsburgh Student Solidarity Coalition, NightShade, Socialist Alternative, Pitt Students for a Democratic Society, the Autonomous Student Network, the Fourth Wave, United Students Against Sweatshops local #31, the Pitt chapter of the International Socialist Organization and several other groups came together to mobilize in explicit opposition to this system.
While marching through Oakland, students were goaded and teased by cops who made remarks to Pitt students such as “Too bad Trump is your president — what are you going to do about it?”
After reaching Litchfield Towers lobby, students had a speak-out focusing on sharing and celebrating our stories. After a speaker led them in a song, they left on their own accord to the quad. When word spread that a friend who had brought a PA system had been suddenly and unjustly detained, the group went back to Litchfield Towers. Police, in full riot gear, had blocked the main entrance, but students entered through the public side entrance of Litchfield Tower B.
Once in that space, between the guard desk and the main student mailroom, students began chanting, “Let him go.” Immediately and without any call for disbursement, plain-clothed cops began using force to remove students from the area and onto Litchfield Towers patio. Cops pushed their bikes into the building, shoving the bikes through the protestors. This resulted in students being pushed, shoved, hit with batons and intimidated with the threat of force. Students and community members sustained multiple injuries due to police violence. The police pulled and arrested two protesters — one of them a Pitt student — at random from the crowd.
Once students were on the patio, police continued to use force by pushing students on the ground and shoving their chests. One plain-clothed cop threatened students with a weapon.
It is unacceptable and intolerable that our University police — who we, as students of Pitt, pay for with tuition fees — would use excessive force and violence toward an unarmed, nonviolent, non-threatening protest. Through the use of force, police escalated the situation and violently removed students from their own University buildings.
This same night, five students were arrested in Texas for protesting in a similar situation. What happened here is not an isolated incident. This is part of a nationwide struggle against continuous oppression and repression and the rise of fascism.
As students at Pitt, with a common desire for freedom and justice, we must band together. We must demand that our University take responsibility for their violent police officers, their consent with oppressive systems, their tolerance of hate speech and their constant tuition hikes when the average Pitt student graduates with upwards of $30,000 in debt. We must demand that they take responsibility for the poverty wages that they pay their workers while members of the administration are paid upwards of half a million dollars. We must demand that their investment portfolio represent a sustainable and ethical future.
Our Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner issued a statement Nov. 18, condoning this police violence. This is absolutely unacceptable — our University should stand with students and protect the right to have our voices heard instead of defending the cops. We refuse to tolerate police violence on our campus and in our community, and we should hope that the dean of students would agree. Dean Bonner, we urge you to retract your statement and support Pitt students and our right to protest.
The Pittsburgh Student Solidarity Coalition