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OLAYEMI: We should recognize visible disparaties in policing of social life

Opinion Column: Life at RU

We are finally at the eagerly anticipated period of the academic year when it looks like and feels like springtime. No longer are we scurrying in and out of our rooms, off and on buses, avoiding any extra time out of the comfort of our living spaces because it is just too cold to be out and about doing anything aside from going to class and getting food. 

We are at the beautiful time of the year marked by spontaneous Livingston Circle pop-outs, increased dages and much more exposed skin. For those unfamiliar as to what that is, a “dage” is a colloquialism for a day party, similar to a tailgate, although the setting often differs. Unlike a tailgate, a dage is not a gathering in anticipation of an event, but rather it is the event itself. 

Since the rising of this spring weather from the shadows of its prolonged winter-like predecessor, one can observe its effects on Rutgers social life. Nonspecific to this school, warm weather breeds warm weather activities. Spending time with friends is once again enjoyable. There is all of a sudden much more to do and far more opportunities to seize the day than ever before.

I ask myself, and anyone else reading this, why that same luxury of enjoying the change in season and its accompanying sense of freedom does not apply to everyone at Rutgers? Why are some able to bask in the laxity of springtime and outdoor enjoyment while others are penalized for the same activity? Let me give you some background.

Nearly a week and a half ago, the entire campus of Rutgers was bursting with energy and amusement, taking advantage of the bright and sunny weather. Aside from excitement of the highly anticipated annual Caribbean Day celebration, different residences were hosting their own daytime festivities, resulting in a euphoric, carefree trance that seemed to take over the campus and its residents. Among the several different gatherings, two in particular stuck out to me. 

At House A, partygoers and hosts alike took advantage of the freedom by enjoying themselves, so much so that more than one person ended up on the roof of the house. Not only was he on the roof, but he was confidently wielding a flamethrower and overzealously shooting out flames into the open air … yes … this really happened on College Avenue. There are even videos to prove it. 

A few blocks over at House B, there were partygoers both inside and outside of the house — loitering along the property and dancing to music as one would expect. In the midst of all the fun, several individuals at House A got into a particularly rowdy fight, which at one point led to a young man getting body-slammed into the ground. Contrastingly, there was no reported fighting at House B. Despite all the fun, toward the latter end of the afternoon, the police came to shut down one of the parties. 

I am sure you can guess which one they swiftly ended.

If you guessed House A, you would unfortunately be wrong. While partiers at House A were able to continue in their mid-day merriment, officers quickly mobilized in front of House B, shut the party down, threatened to mace party attendees and arrested one of the house residents, but not before throwing her on the ground and manhandling her. One may wonder how and why the ever-patrolling police presence on and around Rutgers' campuses happened to miss the unrestrained behavior at House A, but left no stone unturned at House B. 

This is where it becomes interesting to look at the whole picture. Party demographics at House A were reminiscent of regular College Avenue party frequenters — young, white Rutgers students. But at House B, most individuals were people of color, with Black, Hispanic and Latinx being the predominating racial groups. 

This is not to suggest that I am a proponent of either event being cancelled midway through, but rather that I am taken aback by such an overt demonstration of bias on the end of our local police department. Not only was the young woman put in cuffs in front of her own home, but she was forced to the ground and physically dragged to the police car — all under officials’ excuse of addressing the “public disturbance” allegedly incited by this occasion. 

For one to suggest that the disparities between the handlings of these two events are just coincidence is, to me, nothing more than willful ignorance. In comparing and contrasting Houses A and B, one can make his or her own claims and conjectures about the influence of status, privilege, bias or anything else on the occurrences at each event. But, as we end the semester, I cannot help but to feel unsettled by what I view as the demonstrations of societal and authoritative partiality even in the social sector of college life. 

Yvonne Olayemi is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring  in biological sciences. Her column “Life At RU,” runs on alternate  Wednesdays. 


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