Latinx students’ 1992 protest sparks solidarity
Though the University likes to boast an image of diversity, it never mentions its dark history of police brutality and the silencing of brown and black students on campus. The University showed its true, violent colors on May 5, 1992, when Latinx students gathered in the Henry Administration Building and submitted a list of demands for the University to address.
Though the students peacefully sat in the building with the permission of University administration, police equipped with riot gear forcefully removed the protesters from the building and arrested three students. Students were badly beaten and dragged out; one student even had a stun gun used against them to the point that they became delirious and threw up blood.
Nearly 25 years later, only one of the original demands made by Latinx students has been met by the University. This complacency is what propelled students to gather on the Main Quad yesterday and commemorate the 1992 protest.
The fact that the University has continued to ignore the needs of Latinx and black students and faculty shows how marginalized people are unwelcome on campus. These demands, although difficult to meet, are certainly worth attempting.
Yesterday’s rally shed light on the reprehensible inaction of the University’s administration. If the demands still aren’t met, students will not forget about it and move on. These injustices cannot be swept under the rug and more students will join the fight in making sure change happens.
Students from MEChA de UIUC and Black United Front UIUC led the rally with the support of Black Students for Revolution, Students for Justice in Palestine and Campus Union for Trans Equality and Support.
“The purpose of the rally and the march was to renew the bond between communities of color on this campus, to revive our purpose of leading the transformation of our campus community, and to educate and mobilize our peers on the history of student activism,” said MEChA member Inés Nava.
Though there wasn’t a huge turnout for the rally, students stood in solidarity with each other with signs, megaphones and even horchata, ready to fight for their rights.
Nava wasn’t bothered with comparing the support for yesterday’s protest to other campus demonstrations that have taken place this school year saying: “Measuring (support) is very elitist. If 10 people would have showed up and known their facts, this protest would still be powerful.”
The event began with students stating the reasons behind the rally, followed by speeches given by original 1992 protesters Chuy Chavez and Julio Villegas. It led to students marching from the Main Quad to the Department of African American Studies.
“Nothing has changed. Things have gotten worse; we need to demand change,” Villegas said to the crowd of protesters.
Throughout the rally, emphasis was put on the fact that the demands from the original protest have not been met. Cultural houses still struggle for University support, brown and black students are disproportionately underrepresented, there is a lack of Latinx and black faculty members and Chief Illiniwek is still visible on campus.
The University does not deserve to brand themselves as champions of diversity when such demands are still relevant. There is no excuse that can be made for continuously ignoring, excluding and disrespecting black and brown communities on campus.
Though the rally was originally focused on the needs of Latinx students and faculty, it turned toward issues that affect the campuses’ Black community as the crowd approached the DAAS.
The BUF and BSFR spoke out about the injustices affecting the black communities on campus such as the unexplained firing of Lou Turner, former academic adviser and curriculum coordinator of the DAAS and the lack of reform and support from Dr. Ronald Bailey, the head professor of the DAAS.
The BUF then proceeded to extend an invitation to the crowd to participate in a sit-in inside the DAAS directly after the 1992 rally to (sic), “protest our (their) mistreatment by that department and to push for greater student representation within decision making committees.”
“What good is having a seat at the table if we aren’t getting fed?” BSFR organizer Karen Olowu asked in response to black faculty members who think that all goals toward equality on campus have been achieved.
Hopefully, Latinx and black students will have their demands met in order to really make the University the picture of diversity it claims to be.
Tatiana is a freshman in Media.