Many Loyola students are outraged after they say the university’s private police force, Campus Safety, was racially biased and used excessive force against two Loyola students over the weekend.
Campus Safety took a Loyola student into custody outside of Saturday’s sold-out men’s basketball game for intervening in a campus police search being performed on two black males — said to be scalpers — at the entrance of Gentile Arena.
Some students believe Campus Safety’s actions were racially unjust. Students have since taken actions in attempts to hold Campus Safety accountable, starting a petition which has since garnered more than 1,500 signatures, holding a walkout Feb. 28 and scheduling a town hall meeting for March 1.
“There will be no more downplaying of the situation or brushing it off,” said Robin Branton, a member of the Black Cultural Center and a speaker at the walkout. “I don’t know about you all but this is not my Loyola.”
The university released a statement Feb. 25, which said two individuals were approached by Campus Safety police officers for allegations they were scalping tickets outside of the men’s basketball game. The Loyola website states the reselling of tickets outside of Gentile Arena is prohibited. Both men were not Loyola students.
Campus Safety is a sworn police department that handles law enforcement and campus safety issues at Loyola.
Loyola later issued a revised statement. It acknowledged the heightened sensitivity to racial profiling by law enforcement, and said the issue on Feb. 24 was not about race, but about safety for the attendees of the basketball game.
To further address community concerns about racial injustice, Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney sent a letter to the student body Feb. 27. She stressed Jesuit values and said there will be listening sessions with students, faculty and staff in the second half of the semester.
“What I am hearing very clearly is that we can and must do more,” Rooney wrote.
The incident occurred Feb. 24, when student organizers from Students for Reproductive Justice, Loyola Young Democratic Socialists, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Black Cultural Center and African Student Alliance (ASA) and other student supporters, were protesting against the university’s funding of a new athletic facility, scheduled to begin construction this spring.
They were standing in front of the entrance to Halas Recreation Center when they saw the two men being searched. Alan Campbell, a senior at Loyola, said he saw the men being patted down and approached the officers and two men.
Campbell was later taken into custody by Campus Safety after interfering. Loyola’s statement said Campbell refused to identify himself as a Loyola student and did not comply with the officer attempting to keep Campbell away from the investigation. It also said the Campus Safety officer struggled to handcuff Campbell because of his resistance, and Campbell was taken to the ground.
Campbell strongly denies that he was physically involved in the incident before he was handcuffed by police. Loyola’s student handbook states students must present their ID when asked by a university official in an official capacity.
“I didn’t even have a chance to tell them I was a student before they cuffed me,” Campbell said. “I kept telling them ‘I’m a student,’ like you can see in the video, but they still put me in the [police] car.”
Campbell said he thought Campus Safety took inappropriate disciplinary actions when responding to the incident.
“There was excessive force used by Loyola’s police department. They were searching, spread eagle, two black males while we were protesting,” Campbell said.
“It was unjust, it looked completely wrong that Loyola was taking that action completely out in the open.” Another protester, Paloma Fernandez, a senior and friend of Campbell, took action by defending Campbell.
Fernandez said Campus Safety took the two men to another location, and Campbell followed while chanting on behalf of the two men. “Alan kept chanting that these men should be let go, that they were not doing anything wrong,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez said at that point, Campus Safety forcibly detained Campbell and brought him to the ground. “I was trying to help Alan as well, and that further annoyed one of the cops and he put his attention on me, grabbed me, pushed me against the wall,” Fernandez said.
The statement and video footage confirmed Fernandez was physically restrained by the officers. Tori Windham, a sophomore, said she was walking through Damen with a friend when the events transpired.
“We were walking through the tables and chairs [in the Damen atrium] and we saw Alan, and we saw the two men being searched up against the wall,” Windham said. “Alan was calling attention and people started looking and everyone was starting to crowd around.”
Windham said she saw the officers get physical with both Campbell and Fernandez. “They handcuffed him and pinned him to the ground, and then they grabbed Paloma by her shirt. It was extremely uncalled for,” Windham said.
Other students came to Fernandez’s aid. She was eventually let go. The two men who were scalping tickets were detained, questioned and were eventually released with a verbal trespass warning, Loyola’s statement said.