BAC withdraws protest plans due to ASU's new COVID-19 guidelines

The Black African Coalition announced it will no longer be associated with the protest on Aug. 30

The Black African Coalition announced Thursday that it will not be taking part in the planned protest on ASU grounds Sunday after the University announced new guidelines on social gatherings, members said.

The new University policy, announced Tuesday, says students risk suspension for on or off-campus gatherings that do not adhere to public health guidelines.

The protest, called "It’s a Movement, Not a Moment Peaceful Protest," was initially planned by the BAC, Sun Devils United and the Multicultural Solidarity Coalition. The groups demand that the University defund and disarm ASU police, begin the development of a Multicultural Center and hire more faculty of color.

"We were hoping to just give students that platform to really express their needs and their experiences and how they want a better ASU," said Aniyah Braveboy, president of the BAC and a senior studying public service and public policy.

Braveboy and BAC Vice President Cornelius Foxworth, a senior studying psychology, said they were told in an Aug. 21 meeting with University officials that ASU's policy on social gatherings may change, and it could affect their protest.

Foxworth said the BAC adviser informed members that the University said if the group did not remove all affiliations from the planned protest, they could face suspension.

BAC's Thursday letter announced it would no longer host the protest and explained to students the potential consequences of attending. 

But Braveboy said the University told them that even though other posts existed about the protest from other organizations, "the responsibility would still fall on us if students decided to march on Sunday."

Another letter was posted on Friday, again clarifying that the BAC was no "longer affiliated or hosting this march" and to state that it, nor any of their member organizations, should be held responsible for the protest. The Coalition also emailed the same letter to the University. 

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BAC's Letter to ASU Administration.

A post shared by Arizona State University BAC (@blackafricancoalition) on

Joanne Vogel, the vice president of student services, responded to BAC's letter clarifying the coalition was no longer involved in the protest, and said in an email the University had "no intention of interfering with expressive activity" and recognizes "the right of individuals to gather peacefully to express their views."

Vogel also wrote that regardless of who is sponsoring the event, "any ASU-affiliated individuals who participate ... are still expected to conform to ASU’s conduct expectations."

The protest organizers planned to "strongly enforce" guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing, according to the initial BAC flyer for the protest.

"We've been planning this march since July, and we were asking (the University) what guidelines are you guys imposing," Foxworth said. "No one had anything to say that entire time ... it's frustrating."

Divine Lee, a BAC community liaison and a junior studying cybersecurity, said the coalition wanted to express its concerns to the University peacefully while complying with CDC guidelines. 

Lee also said she felt there was a double standard with how the University was enforcing its guidelines. A video surfaced from Snapchat showing a crowd of students playing on a slip-and-slide in front of the Barrett Residential Complex in Tempe, ignoring ASU's policies on mask wearing and social distancing. 

"You can have students play on a slip-and-slide on ASU property," Lee said. "But now COVID matters when it’s about a protest that means something to people?"

Vogel wrote in her email responding to the BAC's concerns that while the University "cannot share the specifics of any disciplinary actions," ASU is taking "those actions" when they are made aware of violations to COVID-19 policies. 

In its letter, the BAC said that video, along with others over the past week showing ASU students at parties and ignoring other health guidelines, showed that "race and ASU’s discriminatory actions are the true reason to continue the suppression of minorities' voice."

The MSC, which is not registered as a student organization at ASU, said it will still be organizing the protest. 

Braveboy and Foxworth said despite being in discussions with the University to address changes they feel are needed for Black students at ASU, the BAC feels those discussions have led nowhere so far. 

"They like to put on this facade that they care for their students and that this is an inclusive and diverse environment," Foxworth said. "But when it comes time to put students first, they don't ever do it."

Jasmin Murphy, a BAC intern and sophomore studying psychology, said she felt frustrated that her and other BAC members now felt they couldn't speak up about their concerns. 

"We're just literally fighting for the right to live. We don't want to be threatened by police,"
Murphy said. "We want to feel safe on our campus, and wanted on our campus."

Braveboy said going forward, the BAC would continue to "advocate on behalf of our Black students."

"We're never going to stop," Braveboy said. "We're not going to be silent. We're not going to be quiet."


Reach the reporters at wmyskow@asu.edu and ekgalin1@asu.edu and follow @wmyskow and @eringalindo29 on Twitter.

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