On Thursday, June 6, 2019 I was terminated from UNC Chapel Hill, following an incident with UNC Campus Police on Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in which I was arrested following an attempt to stop unsafe police training exercises from taking place next to the building in which I work and serve student veterans.
I am raising funds to support a legal case against the university for taking retaliatory actions against me for speaking out on matters of public interest.
I have been targeted by UNC Police and my administrative superiors throughout the entire 2018-2019 academic year, due to my unwavering support of anti-racist student activism and vocal opposition to UNC campus police violence and targeting of student activists and other marginalized student populations on campus. The incident, which you can read about below, was merely an opportunity for the university to follow through on continued threats to fire me. Below is my personal statement that I released on Thursday, April 25, relating the events leading to my arrest:
Yesterday I was arrested at my place of employment after identifying an unsafe training being conducted by UNC Police and other local emergency management services in the vicinity of students.
Today I will be temporarily barred from my place of employment after being placed on “investigative leave” (with pay).
At approximately 5:30pm on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 I was exiting the parking area located at 211 Branson St. This is the Carolina Veterans Resource Center, which has drop in hours until 7pm on Wednesdays and continues to allow student access via OneCard through 10pm. As I did so, I observed multiple UNC Police vehicles, Orange County EMS, and Chapel Hill fire department vehicles as well as several dozen uniformed officers and other emergency management personnel in the parking area located in front of 207/209 Branson St (If you can recall back to December, this was the approximate proposed located of the Silent Sam museum). As I slowly drove through this gaggle that was largely blocking our exit from the CVRC parking lot, I observed some people to be wearing paintball style masks.
As a former 10-year Navy Master-at-Arms (military police), this clicked something in my brain - I was very uncomfortable with whatever was being conducted in the parking lot, not only on campus, but next to a building that had students in it. I conducted a U-turn, drove through the group again and observed more paintball style masks and 2-3 rifles that had orange caps on their muzzles, indicating they were most likely a rifle that had been modified to be considered a “training weapon”. My brain was still processing what could possibly be going on.
I parked again at the CVRC, walked through my building to alert students to my concern and to ask them to stay inside while I observed the training taking place. The students chose to ignore this request and follow me outside.
As I walked on the sidewalk and grass between 211 Branson St and 207/209 Branson St, I looked for an area in which I could sit and observe the officers and EMS personnel in the parking lot. As I sat down on the steps at 209 Branson St, I heard a very distinguishable “pop-pop-pop” from inside the building, which finally helped me understand what was taking place - UNC Police and local partners were conducting simunition round training inside the building. To say I was petrified at that moment would be an understatement.
While a lower velocity than actual ammunition, simunition rounds are a projectile that can break glass and cause bruising and cuts to the skin if struck. In addition to 10 years of generally conducting training around policing tactics and firearms in the military, I specifically worked for a training unit for 3 years that conducted regular training with simunition rounds. Because of the risks associated with their use and that they should never be mixed with actual weapons or people unaware of what is going on, these trainings were held in unused buildings that were fenced, clearly marked, and had access control through one point of entry only.**** ( ****An ally who asked smart questions and relayed more information to me than any administrative person at UNC, was informed that what I believed to be simunition rounds were actually airsoft rounds. The only thing that changes in this scenario is that airsoft rounds would be less likely to break windows, but all other concerns I expressed at the time of my arrest remain the same.)
While I made multiple phone calls to university officials and Chief Blue of Chapel Hill to attempt to get the training stopped, UNC Police insisted on their right to conduct this training in the vicinity of students and also showed disparate treatment of the two men of color students that had followed me out of the CVRC and continued to observe what was happening from approximately 10 feet away versus a white male student who joined us a few minutes later. The men of color students were also threatened with Honor Court by the officers.
As the only way to prevent this unsafe evolution from continuing to happen was to continue to place my body within their direct training area, I refused to leave the steps that I had sat on just moments prior. Within 15 minutes I had been placed in handcuffs and charged with trespassing and resisting public official. I was later informed that after I was placed in the squad car, the training continued.
These are the facts. I am hurt and I am tired and I am angry and to process all my feelings and conduct a deep dive into how this incident is just another aspect of UNC administration sanctioned and protected militarized policing on campus would take me hours, if not days, to process.
Most of all, I know what I did was right. I know that I am being retaliated against after being a vocal voice for anti-racist students this past year. Yesterday’s event occurred only a couple hours after an amazing student led walk-out against police violence on campus, in which I was inappropriately grabbed and shoved by a senior UNC administrator while being refused entrance to South Building.
I was released without bail, by promise to show for a court appearance on May 9th at 9am. I will be ok, the Navy didn’t break my spirit and neither will UNC (although each has come dangerously close).
Today starts the trial for the people being accused of toppling Silent Sam on August 20th of last year. Please consider a donation to the Take Action Chapel Hill fund that supports anti-racist activists who have been targeted by UNC Chapel Hill administration and police this past year. https://fundrazr.com/SupportUNCActivists?ref=sh_97Vf8e
Big shout out to my community, showing up quick and strong for me, Reba, and Emmy Lou last night to make sure we were all taken care of!