Protester threatens to ‘put my foot on’ some necks
Clemson University officials accidentally discovered an effective method for dispersing an eight-day sit-in by racial-grievance protesters: inaction.
Activists who took up residence in Sikes Hall announced Thursday they would “suspend” a protest that started a week ago Wednesday and resulted in five of them being arrested for trespassing.
Just minutes after their announcement, Clemson President James Clements announced a series of initiatives designed to address the protesters’ demands.
“I believe these are solid and meaningful steps towards creating a better campus for everyone,” said Clements in a statement emailed to students shortly after 5 p.m.
The protesters gave Clements further motivation in their statement from Sikes on Thursday, live-streamed by The Tiger newspaper: One threatened physical intimidation against any official who did not meet a pledged timeline for answering their demands.
#prayers for the #clemsonfamily! #sikessitin #Clemsonfive #respect #Godpleasebringhumanitytothisworld #ALLinclusive pic.twitter.com/l1K8hitU2L
— Adam Hoots (@daddy_hoots) April 21, 2016
Intimidated by the administration
Protesters started their takeover of Sikes a day after bananas were found hanging from a banner honoring the history of African Americans at Fort Hill, widely perceived by students as a racist gesture.
Ten minutes before their scheduled announcement, Clemson Chief of Staff Max Allen surprised the group with his own statement, also captured in the live-stream video.
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Allen said Clements would be sending out an email shortly answering their demands. “Take the time to read it,” he said.
“It is my hope that you will all agree that, since we now have a concrete plan to move forward, that we have accomplished what you want us to do,” Allen continued, though the protesters hadn’t yet seen Clements’ proposal.
https://t.co/i1JYzxTAt5 Read President Clements' email outlining eight plans of action in response to #SikesSitIn pic.twitter.com/q6YaAg0VIy
— The Tiger (@thetigerCU) April 22, 2016
Protest leaders didn’t bother waiting for Clements’ announcement, with Sherman Jones telling the group’s national audience: “We have decided to suspend the sit-in until further notice.”
He tried to guilt Clemson officials into doing what eight days of squatting had not.
“We are simply unwilling to continue waiting for them to do what is morally and ethically right,” Jones said, accusing officials of “persistent use of threats, intimidation and all-out silencing of voices and topics that don’t fall in line with of their perception of what the Clemson university could and/or should be doing.”
One protester who was among those arrested, Khayla Williams, told The Fix on Twitter that her workplace had been identified on the anonymous social-media app Yik Yak, which threatened her “livelihood.”
Williams suggested that she could convince Yik Yak to turn over the identity of the person who outed her workplace.
@GeeksGetMoney how are you going to do that?
— Mark Schierbecker (@Schierbecker) April 18, 2016
A week ago Thursday, an unidentified supporter who was live-tweeting the sit-in told The College Fix over Twitter direct messages that the sit-in would continue “for as long as we have to in order to see some tangible, REAL change.”
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The supporter did not respond to a question about what had prompted the protest to be suspended.
Tell me ‘whose neck I need to put my foot on’
Clemson’s protesters promised more to come if they didn’t see progress toward their demands. Rae-Nessha White said the fight was “definitely not over.”
“Might there have been something going on this coming August 17th?” Philosophy Prof. Todd May suggested, referring to the first day of fall semester.
Dr. Todd May and PhD student A.D. Carson bring giant pizzas to #SikesSitIn on Day 5 pic.twitter.com/vGPwmt5wKU
— The Tiger (@thetigerCU) April 17, 2016
“If I don’t get word of change with acknowledgement that it was in response to this movement with specific timelines,” Jones replied, “and with accountability on who I can thank if it is done on time or whose neck I need to put my foot on if it’s not done on time, I’ll be right here on these steps August 17th.”
Three days before the sit-in was suspended, Clemson administrators met with protest organizers to discuss a resolution.
The administration “produced a timeline document to get to” the protesters’ demands, protest leader A.D. Carson said after Monday’s meeting, according to The Tiger. “We want the thing on other side of that.”
Students Carson, White, Williams, Darien “D.J.” Smith and Ian Anderson were arrested and cited for trespassing inside Sikes for refusing to leave when the building closed April 14. Supporters on social media immediately dubbed them the “Clemson Five.”
On Wednesday, Smith’s father Bryant demanded that the university drop the charges against his son, according to WYFF.
Charges against the five were still pending, administrators said Thursday. “There is a process,” Allen responded when asked by sit-in members whether the charges had been dropped.
Bryant Smith was at Thursday’s announcement to call for the resignation of Almeda Jacks, vice president for student affairs.
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“If the community don’t call for [Jacks] to go, I’m calling for her to go,” said Bryant Smith at the protesters’ announcement.
In the emailed proposed resolution Thursday, Clements identified finding additional space for the Gantt Multicultural Center as the administration’s “highest priority.”
This is a defining moment for @ClemsonUniv and I am proud to be a part of it. https://t.co/TLXcbp6wGB
— Jim Clements (@ClemsonPrez) April 21, 2016
Until then, protesters are claiming the Sikes area as their new space. “Until they make us a multicultural center, this is my multicultural center,” said White.
The protest leaders did not respond to The Fix’s emailed request for comment.
CORRECTION: An unidentified protester, originally identified as male, whose workplace was outed on Yik Yak has been identified as Khayla Williams, a female student. She was also among the Clemson Five who were arrested for trespassing.
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