Protesters interrupted a panel on police brutality hosted by Temple Student Government and other Temple organizations Monday afternoon. TSG worked in conjunction with the Pre-Law Division of the Black Law Students Association, the Black Student Union and Temple Police.
About 200 people attended the public event.
TSG Director of Campus Life and Diversity Tyrell Mann-Barnes helped organize the panel after getting the idea from a similar panel he saw during his resident assistant training.
“People of color are on social media and there’s a different hashtag about someone who’s been murdered by police consistently,” he said. “It’s something that needs to be discussed.”
The panel, which consisted of seven guests, fielded questions from students on issues like police training, implicit bias and crime on Main Campus.
After a student at the panel asked about the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police’s decision to endorse Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, students began to shout out of turn.
Erica Mines, a member of the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice, stood and interrupted the panel.
“There are no good cops in a racist system,” Mines said.
She then questioned panelist and Executive Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone about the murder of Joyce Quaweay. Two former TUPD officers were charged with Quaweay’s murder in August. Mines and about six other protesters held up signs for Quaweay.
“That case broke our hearts,” Leone said.
As students brought up other questions, protesters interjected, leaving little room for panelists to respond.
Daniel Jovinelli, a senior chemistry major, asked the panel why disenfranchised people would report crimes that happen in their own community when some police officers don’t report crimes committed by other officers. He never heard a response due to interruptions from protesters.
“The protesters were raising important questions, but there’s a difference between raising questions and interrupting answers,” Jovinelli said.
Kayla Watkins, a senior film and media arts major, recounted how she and other students she knows have been sexually harassed by or in front of Temple officers. She asked Leone whether officers are trained in how women should be treated on campus.
“All he said is, ‘We have a way to report these things,’ not ‘We are working to change the culture that our police officers are helping to enforce,’” Watkins said. “It wasn’t satisfactory at all.”
“It’s a system, and we can’t change a system with a panel discussion,” she added. “And a lot of the answers they’re giving, they’re just rehearsed.”
Watkins said she felt like answers given by the police officers were trying “deflect blame” elsewhere.
Mines also criticized the answers given by the panel. She and other protesters formed a panel of their own by standing next to where the official panel sat.
Mary Stricker, an associate professor of sociology, offered her seat at the official panel for one of the protesters to take, while she moved to the audience.
“I think that the forum was really successful because people got heard who are not normally heard,” Stricker said afterward.
At the end of the panel, Mines apologized to anyone in the crowd who thought she was rude, but said she needed to share her thoughts. Leone thanked Mines for pushing the panelists.
“I was uncomfortable,” Leone said. “And that’s good.”
Jenny Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CORRECTION: A version of this article that ran in print Oct. 3 misstated that the Pre-Law Division of the Black Student Association sat on the panel. This article has been changed to reflect that the name of the organization was the Black Law Students Association, Pre-Law Division.