Students storm Barchi's office to protest Condoleezza Rice's commencement invitation
Over 50 Rutgers students participated in a sit-in yesterday at University President Robert L. Barchi’s office in protest of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s commencement invitation.
This was one of the largest sit-ins in Rutgers history, drawing police to the scene after a glass door was broken and a student allegedly cut their hand.
Starting at noon, students marched on the College Avenue campus from Scott Hall to the Old Queens building. They waved banners and paintings of Rice wearing a necklace of skulls next to an American flag dripping with blood.
Chanting “Hey ho, hey ho, Condi Rice has got to go,” the protestors were met by security guards when they arrived at Old Queens, the location of Barchi’s office. Security guards were unable to stop the crowd from entering the building.
Students piled onto a staircase and converged outside the office, which security guarded for the entirety of the demonstration.
Protestors said they would not move unless Barchi called a meeting to review the issue before Wednesday, although Barchi was not present for the sit-in.
Students expressed dissatisfaction when Felicia McGinty, vice chancellor for student affairs, was sent to address the issue in Barchi’s stead.
McGinty expressed her disappointed in the disturbance, noting that the protest interrupted many University staffers at work.
McGinty said she did not think the protests would do any good in changing the administration’s decision. She encouraged students to think reasonably.
Protest leaders repeatedly told students to be respectful so the administration would not have the grounds to ignore their pleas, but tensions still rose.
“You have a lot of lip,” McGinty told one student when he tried to make a follow-up statement.
Police guarded the entrance of Old Queens, barring media and protest supporters from entering the building and preventing students inside to leave unless they left permanently.
Students were ready to settle in and order food, but police barred food deliveries. McGinty said she was hoping protestors would get hungry enough and leave the building.
During the demonstration, protestors sang in honor of dead Iraqis, noting that their temporary hunger could not compare to what Iraqis endured during the Iraq War. Some gathered in prayer.
They repeatedly asked administration and police officials about their personal views on Rice’s crimes, to which all declined to comment.
Safia Hareema, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said the demonstration was not about politics, rather an issue of human decency.
Shireen Hamza, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said the protest is similar to what blacks endured during the Civil Rights Movement because even with media coverage and authorized protests, change is incredibly difficult.
Sherif Ibrahim, a School of Arts and Sciences senior who helped organize the protest, encouraged others to protest in a non-violent manner.
“Remember that if they drag you out, no violence. But this is your last chance to be in this building doing this, so do it right,” he said.
Students tweeted videos, chants and pictures from inside Barchi’s office hoping to reach those that were not allowed to join in.
Protestors claimed they were sweaty from building’s heat, worried about missing exams and starving from lack of food.
Since building closed at 5 p.m., protestors began to worry that they would be considered trespassers. About 20 students remained, noting that they were willing to take the risk and stay.
At around 6 p.m., police released a statement, notifying students that they were suspects for trespassing and were at the risk of prosecution.
An attorney representing protestors told them that they would be arrested if they did not evacuate the building.
Despite several students’ willingness to face arrest and suspension, the protesting group voted to end the sit-in.
They joined the rest of the protesters outside, walking out together with their posters and chanting.