Outraged over the outcome of a racial bullying case, San Jose State University students rallied Thursday to denounce the verdict and the school’s response to the scandal.
The Black Unity Group met with various campus organizations outside Tower Hall as the clock struck noon. Many of them wore black or T-shirts emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter.” Two students held up a gray-scale American flag.
“We are here to come together as a student community to fervently disavow and publicly express our disappointment and anger towards the verdict of the hate crime trial,” students from the Black Unity Group wrote in a statement. “We are woke to the fact that this entire situation is indicative of the grave issues with larger systems of inequality, racism, white supremacy and centrality, and the biased criminal justice system.”
On Monday, former SJSU students Logan Beaschler and Colin Warren were sentenced to a month in jail or weekend work for the 2013 assault of Donald Williams Jr. during his freshman year. A dorm-mate, Joseph Bomgardner, came away with no weekend duty, a one-day jail sentence and credit for time served. They must also complete 50 hours of volunteer work and a sensitivity class on African-American history.
The defendants, who are all white, were also accused of committing a hate crime by force. A jury acquitted Bomgardner of the hate crime allegation and declared a mistrial for the other two defendants.
Protestors called the verdict unjust for dismissing the hate crime charges, when the harassment against Williams was racially motivated. Williams told police his roommates placed a bike lock around his neck, hung swastikas and a Confederate flag in their dorm and called him “Three-Fifths” and “Fraction.”
“This verdict and sentencing has reopened the wounds that we as a community have been working towards healing in the time since it occurred,” the Black Student Union wrote. “It makes us realize how much work still needs to be done on our campus, in our city, and in our country, especially in a time when America is very visibly rearing it’s racism openly with the rise of Donald Drumpf’s presidential campaign. We are deeply frustrated with the lack of hate crime charges and the ridiculously minimal sentencing of just a mere 30 days of punishment which only adds insult to injury to us as a community, but most over, to the victim, Donald Willams Jr.”
SJSU’s interim president Sue Martin sent out a campus-wide email the morning before the protest to list some of the steps the school has taken to ease racial tensions on campus.
“While we respect the independence and discretion of jurors and the courts in reaching these determinations, the offenders’ conduct was unacceptable and incompatible with our values,” she wrote. “They are no longer enrolled at SJSU. It is clear to me—as I believe it is to many of you—that building an inclusive, welcoming climate at SJSU demands sustained effort and contributions, large and small, from all of us.”
The school is close to hiring a chief diversity officer, Martin said. In the wake of the hate crime case, it added diversity awareness curriculum in new-student orientations, leadership and residence hall trainings. It also launched a committee to support Chicano, Latino and African American students and hired more resident assistants for campus housing.
Nah. Black students at SJSU issued demands 3 years ago that are just now being considered https://t.co/Nb1nEJWDhj
— alyxandra ackrite (@AGtheGiant) March 17, 2016
The Black Unity Group, however, said the school must do more to quell racial tensions on campus. In a list of demands, the group also called for a zero tolerance policy for racial harassment and a formal apology for the racial harassment against Williams.
— KPFA News (@KPFANews) March 18, 2016