Four days after Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by police in Minneapolis, messages protesting his death were written across buildings on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus.
Though campus workers began clearing the graffiti the morning after it arrived, Loyola officials have remained silent. Anna Rozenich, a Loyola spokesperson, said to expect a statement Feb. 9 — three days after the graffiti started a campus-wide discussion.
During the evening of Feb. 6, several buildings were graffitied on campus using what seemed to be a black marker. The buildings included Madonna Della Strada, Mertz Hall and the Mundelein Center for the Fine and Performing Arts. Some of the messages were, “Police lynched Amir Locke,” “BLM” and “RIP Amir Locke.” Additionally, on the entrance of Madonna Della Strada an unidentified person wrote, “Why does God kill Black people?”
There were also messages written on a classroom’s whiteboard in Mundelein and in the building’s hallways.
Police officers were executing a no-knock warrant for a residence owned by Locke’s relative Feb. 2 where Locke wasn’t the target of the investigation, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Less than 10 seconds after arriving, officer Mark Hanneman shot Locke multiple times.
Locke reached for a legally obtained gun after he was startled by police entering while he was sleeping on the couch, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Following Locke’s death, protestors began demanding accountability for the officers involved, which resulted in Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey issuing a temporary moratorium on no-knock warrants in the city. Mayor Frey did this with the help of law enforcement involved in passing Breonna’s Law, which was a ban on no-knock warrants in Louisville, Kentucky following the death of Breonna Taylor in 2020, according to the Associated Press (AP).
During a 9 p.m. mass held at Madonna Della Strada the night after the messages appeared, Father Patrick Gilger, S.J., asked those in attendance to pray for the person responsible for the graffiti, and voiced his own concerns about the incident.
“The first thing I want to do in response, as a white man and as a Catholic, is to say that I really want to listen to the concerns that are being voiced by those who are organizing these protests,” Gilger, a priest and sociology professor at Loyola said. “It is completely understandable to be outraged at the death of another young Black man. … The anger is anything but confusing.”
Joao Morales Barreto, a first-year student studying business information systems and accounting in the Interdisciplinary Business Honors Program, was in attendance at the mass, and said he doesn’t think vandalism was constructive.
“I don’t see [others’] opinions changing because the person vandalized it,” Morales Barreto said. “It brings awareness to this specific person, but I think in the long run it does no benefit.”
Loyola custodians were seen on campus using a power washer to remove the messages as students made their way to class the mornings of Feb. 7 and Feb. 8, though some of the graffiti remained. No official police report has been filed, according to the Chicago Police Department (CPD).
As of publication, no official statement had been released by the administrators in regards to the vandalism and no person has been identified, though Rozenich told The Phoenix the university planned to make a statement Feb. 9.
Some students — including first-year Kambraey-Jharee Young, a communications major — were disappointed in the lack of administrative response.
“It’s something to talk about especially when there are Black students who go here and they have to deal with these things,” Young said. “They don’t have a choice to just ignore it or look past it and pretend it didn’t happen like the school is doing.”
A class of nine Loyola students in the School of Education addressed a letter to Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney, among other university officials, Feb. 8 prior to Rozenich’s announcement of a response. The letter communicated their disappointment in a lack of response from the university both to Locke’s killing and to the graffiti.
“St. Ignatius tells us to ‘go forth and set the world on fire,’ but we have barely seen a spark from this university, and change is long overdue,” the Feb. 8 letter reads.
The letter came to fruition after the students’ professor facilitated a conversation in their class. Later the same day, Provost Margaret Callahan reached out to the professor to “express her appreciation for his leading students in a constructive and needed discussion” in the classroom, Rozenich said in an email to The Phoenix the evening of Feb. 8.
Deanna Cipek, a second-year education major and co-author of the letter, spoke of the weight behind the silence on campus.
“The silence has really communicated that there are students who aren’t welcomed on campus, that they can’t feel safe on campus [and] that they can’t feel hurt on campus,” Cipek, 22, said. “These different acts of protest are a reaction to the fact that student concerns continuously fall on deaf ears, and the university has not made any sort of effort to tell the student body that they care.”
Both Cipek and fellow co-author Shane Youngblood, a 20-year-old junior studying secondary education and political science, spoke about the possibility of a statement losing meaning because of the two days of silence.
“I will truly feel like [the administration] is only saying something because we emailed [them],” Cipek said. “What we want most of all, as future educators, is to know there’s a space to help our students feel better in times of trauma and in times of need.”