#MoneyTalksAtBrown protest draws large student crowd

Student unrest in the wake of the University’s mishandling of the GHB and sexual assault cases reached a bubbling point today–on Wriston Quad, on the Main Green, and, ultimately, in University Hall.

As students poured out of their 11 o’clock classes this morning, approximately 400 student protesters gathered outside the Ratty, handing in plain dollar bills to the protest organizers and in return receiving ones with “IX” emblazoned in red tape–what has become the unofficial symbol of the #MoneyTalksAtBrown movement. The movement has gained national attention, as reporters from a variety of professional publications were present at the protest.

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The crowd was substantial, with the space between Marcy House and Sears House–the latter of which was home to Phi Psi before their suspension—completely full. While protesters milled about, taping bills to their mouths and talking in hushed tones, some members of Phi Psi sat on the oversized red bench in front of Sears, a popular hangout spot for the house’s inhabitants.

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The protest began with activist Katie Byron ’15 reading a list of the movement’s demands and urging the crowd to amplify the voices of the two survivors, who wish to remain anonymous and are going by their first initials—R and J. The organizers were also clear that “actions of retaliation against the accused drugger serve only to silence [the survivors] further and undermine our hope of a campus community that provides safety and justice for students.”

The demands ranged from systemic changes to ameliorate university protocol regarding sexual assault cases, especially those involving date rape drugs—such as an amendment to the Student Code of Conduct to “include the administration of a date rape drug as an act of sexual misconduct” and a requirement that “all interviews conducted by Brown DPS be recorded and transcribed…to avoid mistakes”—to grievances specific to this case, including a formal apology from the University “acknowledging the haphazard and negligent manner in which these crimes were investigated and subsequently addressed.” A full list of the demands can be found on the protest’s event page on Facebook.

Rows upon rows of students, some holding hands, a few carrying a mattress as an homage to Emma Sulkowicz’s performance piece, “Carry That Weight”—which protested Columbia University’s mishandling of her rape case—then snaked their way up Wriston, through Wayland Arch and onto the Main Green.

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They stalled outside Faunce for a moment. Students sitting on the Faunce steps, and visiting families walking through the Main Green, grew silent.

The wave then filed one by one into University Hall, the door to the building being propped open by UCS President Maahika Srinivasan, who held a sign reading “SILENCE” as she ushered students in. The eerie symbolism of protesters walking through the University’s oldest building, a central symbol of Brown’s longevity in the Brown 250+ campaign, was not lost on administrators, some of whom stood to the side observing the stream of students walking through the halls. Those working in University Hall seemed to get Srinivasan’s memo.

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IMG_5301Students then trickled out University Hall and onto the Quiet Green, where they formed a circle. Will Furayama ’15 and Byron made closing remarks, with Byron asking the protesters to “center [the victims’] voices as we move forward.”

“This is our school,” Byron said. “We stand with those who have been victimized.”

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Images via Danielle Perelman ’17. 

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