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American students protest in support of defunding university police units

Thousands of university students across the United States are rallying for their institutions to sever connections with outside law enforcement bodies and suspend financial resources provided to policing units.

On 14 June, 600 protesters marched to demand that Yale University abolish its on-campus police department, the first of its kind in the US established in 1894. Those involved called for the prestigious Ivy League institution to disband the department and divert the funds towards community projects and local mental health services.

Unrest at Yale predates the recent global attention in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM). Disbanding the on-campus police department gained initial support following the involvement of a Yale University police officer in a shooting of an unarmed black couple last year.

Jaelen King, co-head of Black Students for Disarmament at Yale, said: “The police department has all the powers and privileges afforded to the New Haven police department, yet they do not hold themselves equally accountable to the community members they police.”

Yale University spokesperson President Peter Salovey assured students and members of the community in an official statement that the YPD (Yale Police Department) are “emphasizing increased supervisory scrutiny and ongoing assessment”.

Graduate workers and faculty also support these changes with groups crafting petitions, organising protests, and issuing statements in an attempt for their demands to be met.

It’s an entire system and culture of policing we aim to abolish

– Semassa Boko, Graduate worker at University of California-Irvine

Protests continue to make their way West as dozens of students at the University of Chicago held a sit-in protest, demanding the administration defund and disarm the university police force by 2022.

Students claim that the university attempted to disrupt their efforts, stopping supplies of food and water from being brought to protesters and preventing them from using the bathroom.

However, a spokesperson for the university said that protesters were not allowed to eat in the police headquarters, nor were the bathrooms meant for public use.

In addition, Harvard University’s student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, ran a feature on racism within their university’s police force in January of this year.

Students at the University of California signed a letter to abolish police departments on their campuses and sever all contracts with external police forces.

Semassa Boko, a graduate worker at the University of California-Irvine, said: “It’s an entire system and culture of policing we aim to abolish.”

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