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“These protests are making our campus very hostile,” students react to protests surrounding controversial speaker


On Wednesday, April 6, protesters rallied outside of SUNY Brockport President Heidi Macpherson’s home regarding the Jalil Muntaqim online event that would be held later that evening. On opposite ends of Holley Street, protesters stood in support of and opposition to the college’s invitation of Muntaqim to speak. 

At 1 p.m., an email was sent to SUNY Brockport students and faculty, alerting them that all in-person classes and activities would be canceled after 4:50 p.m.  

“This action is taken to help reduce pedestrian and vehicular traffic in advance of the speech and potential protests.” 

Macpherson explained in the email how the college had been planning in preparation for this event. 

“For the last two and a half weeks, we have been actively engaged in planning and setting up all necessary precautions to protect the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff, while ensuring the academic freedom of our faculty and respecting the legal rights of Mr. Muntaqim.” 

Around 3:15 p.m., at least three police K-9s were spotted around Macpherson’s home and the Seymour Union checking for hidden bombs as a precaution before the protests took place.  

At 4:45 p.m., most buildings across campus, like the Drake Memorial Library and SERC, started to close and lock up. As for residence halls, Night Desk Attendants worked across campus throughout the day to ensure the safety of students by keeping guests out. 

At 4:50 p.m., students started to funnel out of their classes, some going to watch the protest on Holley Street, while others opted to go home. 

During this time, some protesters started to park and set up in the parking lot outside the Tower Fine Arts Center (Lot G). 

Some of the signs held by these protesters said, “We Support Our Police,” “We Back the Blue” and “Remember Them!” 

After students were released from their classes and protesters started to show up, police from across the state began to flood the campus. University Police were joined by officers from SUNY Cortland, University at Buffalo and SUNY Albany to secure the protest, with some undercover as a precaution. There were six police officers spotted arriving on-scene, with four police cars parked in front of the Tower Fine Arts Center and two more cars in Lot D1. Police were also sent to Brockport Middle School and the Seymour College Union. 

Around 4:52 p.m., a lone counter protester sat outside Edwards Hall, overseeing the protest. SUNY Brockport student Rebecca Ostrander silently held her “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) flag in response to the “Blue Lives Matter” flags she saw waving across the street.  

“The flags that they’re flying, and the Blue Lives Matter movement were created in direct opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement,” Ostrander said. “No matter how hard they try to claim that it’s unrelated, you can’t have one without the other. You can’t choose to be Black, but you can choose to be a cop. Black lives matter more than ‘blue lives’ because blue lives don’t exist.” 

As the protest continued, more students stopped outside Edwards Hall to watch. Some even joined Ostrander in her counter-protest, using handmade signs of their own or ones they picked up in the Seymour College Union earlier that day. 

Some of their signs said, “All Black Lives Matter,” “End White Supremacy”, “Color is NOT a Crime” and “Justice and Free Speech for Jalil Muntaqim.”  

One student believed the college’s precautions for the event were “a bit excessive.” 

“This whole situation is just stupid,” SUNY Brockport junior Mackenzie Baca said. “They never cancel classes for anything else, especially when they didn’t cancel classes when there was someone with a literal gun in one of the residential buildings. They didn’t even tell people at first.” 

This incident in question occurred in late January, where students were only given a brief RAVE alert after the situation was taken care of. This led to students like Baca finding it ironic how the school responded to the protest on Wednesday versus the incident in January.  

While some students disagreed with the college’s approach to the protest, it also made students like Jaivana Jones feel intimidated. 

“I don’t appreciate all these people coming to my campus, even though it is a public campus,” Jones said. “These protests are making our campus very hostile, and it makes me and many other students very uncomfortable. There are people here, basically trying to intimidate our campus. That doesn’t make me feel safe. Going to my class and continuing my education would have made me feel safe.” 

For SUNY Brockport student Destiny Kirk, she found it “hypocritical” of these protesters to be voicing their opinions against someone else’s freedom of speech. 

“I think it’s very hypocritical,” Kirk said. “They don’t want him to have the right to speak but are on our campus using their freedom of speech. If you want to hear him speak, listen to him speak. If you don’t want to hear him speak, don’t listen. That’s just what it is.” 

Even with protesters and counter protesters arguing on either side of Holley Street, the event proceeded as planned, although four minutes late at 6:34 p.m. 

Almost ten minutes later, BLM protesters rushed across the street to take a group picture, posing in front of the Blue Lives Matter protesters.  

This action, however, was misinterpreted as a fight, resulting in officers breaking them up and placing a barricade between the two groups. The police officers then doubled up on each side of the barricade. 

Toward the end of the event, both groups of protesters began to leave, leaving the officers alone with their barricades and a few scattered flags on both sides. Campus activities resumed as normal.  

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Cambrie Eckert, News Editor
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