Johns Hopkins Students Demand End to ICE Contracts, No Armed Police on Campus

Students at Johns Hopkins University organized a month-long sit-in of their campus administration building, Garland Hall, to stand against the university's plans for an armed campus police force and its contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They demanded the cancellation of ICE contracts, set to expire this year, and a pledge that all money generated by previous contracts, about $1.7 million, would be donated to an immigration defence fund. Students firmly rejected detention of asylum seekers and criminalization of immigrants and demanded that their university play no part in such crimes. Throughout the month-long sit-in the voice of students could be heard loud and clear, "No Armed Police on Campus! No ICE Contracts!"

One organizer of the sit-in explained, "Very dangerous state legislation has just passed, granting this university, which is a repeat offender in terms of crimes against Baltimore city residents, with police power. Seventy-five percent of the students at Johns Hopkins said they did not want the police force. Several community associations, primarily across Baltimore, also said that they did not want this armed force.

"There was a letter written by 100 faculty members to the administration who also said they wanted to disarm, de-escalate, de-fund this machine of force that was going to happen. They called for other solutions and investment and things like mediation and community-driven alternatives to policing. As a public health institution, Johns Hopkins University knows better and knows that more policing does not equate with less crime, but that more policing actually causes more anxiety and public health concerns around communities, causes the extraction of wealth from communities and also normalizes state-sanctioned violence and terror against black and brown bodies across the U.S."

The faculty passed a unanimous resolution in support of the students. Community support grew over the course of the sit-in, with community organizations and church groups visiting students and publicly expressing their support. With this support, the students raised more than $2,700 for food and other necessities.

President Daniels repeatedly refused to meet with students about their concerns unless they left the administration building. Instead, students put leaflets and banners up and organized meetings and various events to inform their fellow students and all concerned about the need to block an armed police force on campus and to reject any relations with ICE. They made a clear connection between the use of force against immigrants at the border with Mexico and use of force against students, especially minorities, who are routinely brutalized and profiled. Baltimore police are already known for their killing of unarmed African Americans. Students have no doubt a private armed police force on campus, unaccountable to the public, would be even worse.

They pointed to the on-going struggle in Baltimore for justice for Tyrone West, an African American killed by police from Morgan State University in July 2013. Morgan State's private armed force is being used by Johns Hopkins as the model for its force. Students and the community are also well aware that in the last several years, campus police officers have used racist profiling and force in handling incidents, including those involving students with mental health issues. These are warranted concerns in light of an incident in April where an African American couple, unarmed and fully compliant during a traffic stop, were shot and injured by police, including an officer from Yale's police department.

Students rejected the administration claims that armed police would make the campus more safe. Many women students said investigating sexual assaults on campus, for example, would do a lot more to provide for the safety of students.

The university also threatened students with disciplinary actions. They refused to put anything in writing in regard to the concerns raised, but did create a paper trail for "violations" by the students, "to pursue disciplinary actions against students as soon as the sit-in is over," as one organizer put it. "We've heard reports that the Dean's Office has been calling faculty members, especially faculty members who are in more precarious positions, and threatening them, to discourage them from supporting the sit-in," the student said. Anyone who is stepping in the space is also being pursued and surveilled in these ways, which is extremely alarming and which actually gives credibility to our concerns about what Hopkins would do with its own private, armed police force on campus and beyond and in the community."

The administration also refused a student and faculty proposal for mediation to address their concerns and resolve the problems. It also rejected calls from students and faculty for more public meetings so that people in the community could voice their concerns about ICE, police profiling and killings, and alternatives to use of force.

On May 1, after weeks of the administration's refusals to meet, the students shut down Garland Hall, chaining the doors shut and chaining themselves to railings and staircases inside. They left open the door to the president's office. Posters and leaflets were put up on the windows and doors throughout the building, detailing their concerns. A large banner on the staircase read, "No private police. No ICE contracts. Justice for Tyrone West."

On May 5, President Daniels said he would meet with students, but only outside the building, which most saw as a ploy to demobilize them. Students called for a neutral, mutually agreed-upon mediator to conduct the negotiations. They demanded that students, professors and staff who participated in the protests not be punished, and to be let back into the building and not be arrested if the talks went awry.

Daniels refused and called in the police to clear the building. A force of more than 80 police descended on the building. Seven students were arrested. As they were forced out, students' militant chants made clear they will continue to fight.

(Voice of Revolution. Photos: Struggle-La Lucha, Students Against Private Police, J. Noor, B. Soderberg)

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 17 - May 11, 2019

Article Link:
Johns Hopkins Students Demand End to ICE Contracts, No Armed Police on Campus


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