By Elisabetta Silvestro
A peaceful vigil against police violence was organized by the Save CCSF Coalition on March 20 in front of Conlan Hall.
The purpose was to express solidarity with the students who got hurt at the March 13 protest and to ask Chancellor Arthur Tyler to retract his statement that accused students of “violent outbursts.”
After the March 13 protest turned violent, Tyler released a statement saying he was “saddened to see students engaging in violent outbursts,” that was posted on the City College website.
“We, the students are here to assert that all acts of violence on that day were committed by police against protesters, against peaceful student demonstrators,” Save CCSF student organizer Mícheál Madden said.
He said what happened last week was the administration’s fault because students have always been allowed to protest inside Conlan Hall without consequences.
“Last Thursday, our students were beaten and brutalized by campus police and the SFPD,” Madden said.
Tyler decided to close Conlan Hall again for the March 20 demonstration “to ensure the safety of all staff and students,” he wrote in an email that was sent to everyone at City College that morning.
“The decision by administration to close this building and to call in … SFPD was the reason that things got out of hand, is the reason that things escalated,” Madden said.
Campus police recall the protests differently.
“We were just told to secure the building, lock the doors and not to allow any protester inside,” Campus Police Officer Erica McGlaston said. “Students forced their way in against our orders.”
McGlaston said several students used violence before the police did.
“They pushed. One of the students hit an officer. They used their body to physically run over the police officers,” she said. “We had to protect ourselves, as well as protect the students who were in the building who were not involved.”
Approximately 40 people were present at the vigil, including Otto Pippenger, one of the two students who had been arrested during the March 13 protest.
Pippenger displayed a black eye and “possibly two fractured wrists,” he said, but refused to comment on the alleged aggression.
No charges were ultimately filed against Pippenger and Dimitrios Philliou at their arraignment on March 19.
“I’ve been here 17 years and it is by far the worst thing that I remember happening,” AFT 2121 representative Tim Killikelly said. “We are here today to make sure that this never happens again on this campus.”
After the 45-minute-long vigil, many of the demonstrators went to a Participatory Governance Council meeting at the Multi-Use Building room 140 to ask Tyler directly to retract his statement.
The atmosphere was tense with two police officers on one side of the room, two on the other and one outside.
Madden accused Tyler of giving false statements and not being neutral.
“Our students are demanding you immediately retract your statement concerning so-called student violence that day,” Madden said.
Tyler said he is going to hire an outside consultant with a legal background to do a review and listen to both sides to find out what the facts are.
He said the statement he made was based on a report he had from the police chief that said six officers were hurt.
“Sure, (if) I find, through the review, that my statements were inaccurate, I will retract them,” Tyler said.
The students were disappointed by Tyler’s response. After Bouchra Simmons, student member of the Participatory Governance Council, accused them of creating chaos and bad press for the college, about 15 of them left the room shouting “you don’t represent us.”