Chanting “Hey-hey, ho-ho, these racist teachers have got to go,” hundreds of students filled the third floor of The Evergreen State College’s Library building Wednesday and surrounded president George Bridges’ office.
Students said they were protesting institutional racism at the Olympia liberal arts college.
“It’s important. It’s necessary,” said Halla Warmer, a junior. “It’s life or death for us.”
Racial tensions have been brewing at the college in recent weeks. Some students held signs that were calling for the firing of Evergreen Police Chief Stacy Brown. Others held signs with messages such as “Black lives matter: End the injustice.”
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Evergreen freshman Shayna Clayton said the college advertises itself as one that embraces diversity, but its students of color aren’t treated fairly and their needs aren’t being met.
“This institution is really (messed) up and racist,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to deal with that.”
A group of protesters sent the following statement in a news release to The Olympian: “What started out as anti-black comments on social media has turned into the dismissal of the rights of students and femmes of color, physical violence by police, and false sentencing of students protesting. Black trans disabled students are actively being sought out and confronted by campus police constantly, police are refusing to explain their actions and harassment. Students will not stand for this anymore, as students of color have never felt comfortable on campus and have not been treated equally.”
Meanwhile, college spokesman Zach Powers issued the following statement to The Olympian: “It’s been an intense and useful conversation with a group of students. The college is working with the group to address their issues. This type of conversation is being replicated across the country right now. We remain committed to providing a great education to all students.”
The protest began with a rally in the campus’ central Red Square, and included a march to Bridges’ office on the third floor of the library building, where students lined the hallways and promised to occupy the building until their demands were met.
Some students blocked entrances with furniture, in anticipation of a police response.
“It shouldn’t have even gotten to this point,” said student Linda Wilson. “It should have been dealt with a long time ago.”
The crowd dispersed by about 5:45 p.m., Powers said.