Student Protests Take On New Form as Participants Cover Lake Shore Campus with Chalk Messages

Protests in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus (LSC) stretched into their seventh day Aug. 27. In previous days of protests, participants blocked intersections near campus and held up signs with their messages — but, for the sixth and seventh days demonstrating they took a different approach. 

About 30 protestors used chalk to spread their message on sidewalks and other parts of campus as they continued to push the university to cut ties with the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and call for Loyola to better support Black students, among other things. 

On a path running alongside Madonna della Strada Chapel, students wrote “BLM” in different colors on each slab of pavement. The words “Black Lives Matter” in blue chalk underlined Loyola’s seal on the columns flanking the entrance to campus near the Mundelein Center for the Fine and Performing Arts. 

“Say their names,” surrounded by names of Black people killed by police such as Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, George Floyd and more covered a concrete bench in the center of LSC. 

Students began using chalk to spread messages across campus on the sixth day of protests, Aug. 26. Protest organizer Dorien Perry-Tillmon, a sophomore studying film and digital media, told Phoenix reporters the artwork is meant to spread positive messages about the Black community. 

The demonstrations come in the wake of high-profile killings of Black people by police, such as Floyd who died in Minneapolis police custody in May

Perry-Tillmon, 19, added Aug. 26 the protestors would refrain from writing in chalk about Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney and CPD.

Students returned to chalk more messages on campus the following day, Aug. 27, after a photo began circulating on social media of what appeared to be Loyola facilities workers washing away some of the drawings in front of the Loyola Information Commons. 

The Instagram account @ourstreetsluc has served as a hub for students to find information about the protests. The account posted the photo of chalk being washed away on its Instagram story with the caption, “This is why we protest. Even while we were chalking Dean Rodriguez told us the chalking was allowed. Looks like we’ll need to go back and make campus look pretty again.”

The Instagram account @ourstreetsluc shared a photo of what appeared to be Loyola facilities workers washing away chalk messages from protestors.
Courtesy of @ourstreetsluc

Perry-Tillmon said he reached out to Loyola Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Will Rodriguez via email Aug. 27 expressing his frustration after seeing the photo of the chalk being washed away. 

“We made our campus look beautiful,” Perry-Tillmon wrote in the email to Rodriguez, obtained by The Phoenix. “We brought our collective talents and energy together, on a school day, to make our campus feel welcoming for Black students … I really just don’t understand why it was washed away. I am literally at a loss for words.”

Rodriguez wasn’t immediately available for an interview but provided The Phoenix his email reply addressed to Perry-Tillmon.

In it, Rodriguez referenced a previous discussion with Perry-Tillmon about how chalking is “strictly prohibited” on campus but that “no one would prevent you or your group from doing so and that no one would get in trouble.” 

Rodriguez also wrote in the email to Perry-Tillmon the “exception” to the rule of chalk on campus was meant to be limited to Aug. 26 but acknowledged there was no prior discussion of how long the chalk from that day could remain on campus. Rodriguez gave permission to the students to re-chalk the messages erased. 

“I recognize that we never talked about the duration of the messages and I did not think of the regular daily cleaning that includes washing any chalking on campus,” Rodriguez said in the email to Perry-Tillmon. “As such, the cleaning has stopped and will not continue again until next week.”

Rodriguez went on to commend the demonstrators for their work.

“I recognize and appreciate that everyone involved has followed the rules, have complied with requests from officials, and that you also kept the messages positive!” Rodriguez wrote to Perry-Tillmon. “I think it speaks volumes about you and everyone supporting the cause and it has not gone unnoticed.”

Perry-Tillmon told The Phoenix he and other demonstrators never asked for Rodriguez’s “permission” to chalk on campus — they knew it was against university policy, but from what Rodriguez told him, they didn’t expect the art to be washed away.

“He made it sound like we had the university’s full support in chalking as long as we stayed off the permeated walkways, which we did,” Perry-Tillmon said. “We even kept our messages positive and we were just trying to uplift the Black community while making our campus look prettier with chalk.”

Kana Henning, associate vice president for facilities at Loyola, said the workers washing away the chalk were unaware students got approval, and she asked them to stop.

“The staff were not aware that the protestors were given permission to chalk their messages on campus yesterday,” Henning said in an email to The Phoenix. “They simply thought they were doing their job, which would normally be to remove chalk from campus.  I’ve asked [the workers] to stop this time.”

While an overwhelming majority of the sidewalk art on campus is in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, a few drawings appeared outside of the Damen Student Center opposing the protestors’ demands, reading “All Lives Matter,” and “Keep CPD,” The Phoenix reported

It’s unclear who was responsible for the counter-messages. Arden Luers, a sophomore at Loyola studying neuroscience, called the “all lives matter” messages “messed up.”

“The fact when people see BLM your first response is to argue, seems very messed up,” Luers, 19, said. “They just don’t want the emphasis on Black lives.” 

Perry-Tillmon said the counter-messages inspired him to continue organizing the protests in support of BLM. 

“I don’t care,” Perry-Tillmon said. “They’re showing the reason why we have to protest, all the more reason to keep coming out.”

Assistant A&E Editor Zack Miller and Opinion Editor Rylee Tan contributed to the reporting of this story.

The Phoenix is continuing to cover the protests on Loyola’s campus as they happen. Follow our Twitter, @PhoenixLUC for more. 

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