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Risking it All for Change: Day Two of the #BlackburnTakeover

On day two of the #BlackburnTakeover, more than 100 students gathered outside to serve as a protective barrier to the students participating in the sit-in from the inside.

Protesters outside of Blackburn around 8 p.m. Photo taken by Jasper Smith.

On day two of the #BlackburnTakeover, more than 100 students gathered outside to serve as a protective barrier to the students participating in the sit-in from the inside. The University closed the Armour J. Blackburn University Center, and those on campus were not allowed inside the building. 

Pillows, laptops, blankets; items typically located in any college dorm, were found beside a sea of Howard students as they sat outside of the Blackburn in a long anticipated protest against administration.

Vice President of Student Affairs, Cynthia Evers, Ed.D, sent out an email via HU Communications stating that student protesters inside the building violated the Student Code of Conduct and told students who did not leave by 12 p.m. on Oct. 13 they would be subject to discipline.

“Some students committed multiple violations of the Student Code of Conduct: failure to comply with University or civil authority; unauthorized presence; and disorderly or disruptive conduct,” Dr. Evers said in the email. 

“Those who remain in the center and who vandalize Howard University property are in violation of the University’s policies on student conduct and public health guidance,” she continued. 

Humid weather and threats of expulsion did not deter the protesters from showing their support for the movement, as news spread throughout the day that students would be forcibly removed from the building by 12 p.m.

“The emailing them, the calling, the submitting petitions, it’s not working. So clearly we have to take affirmative action, and occupying Blackburn is what we’re going to continue to do because that’s the only thing seeming to get anyone’s attention,” said freshman political science major Kymora Olmo in between leading chants to the growing crowd.

Students could be seen sitting on concrete walkways, using their bodies as makeshift blockades in front of the building’s glass doors at noon, in an attempt to stop the forced removal of the protesters inside. 

“There are so many things that y’all [administration] are doing to get away from the fact that you aren’t doing your jobs,” said freshman Madiana Myrtil. “We’re paying you to be there for us but are mad when we fight for ourselves.”

Around two in the afternoon, students were able to rush past the security guards and into the main sector of the university center, increasing the number of protesters inside the building dramatically. The group of nine protesters from the night before rose to more than 60. 

#BlackburnTakeover came only three years after the 2018 protest, and 50 years after the 1968 protest, both held in the University’s administration building. Students admit that a lot of their grievances were the same as their predecessors. Some members of the administration do not feel this protest can be compared to previous ones.

In her email, Dr. Evers also mentions historic protests and the ongoing protest in Blackburn differs.

“We take great pride in Howard students leading the nation in public and private fights for justice and equality in all corners of the nation and, in fact, the world. However, there is a marked delineation between historic protests and what we witnessed yesterday,” said Dr. Evers. 

“The University looks to fully preserve the integrity and authenticity of students’ constitutionally guaranteed rights of free speech and assembly while protecting against the weaponization of these rights as false representations of the Howard student experience at large,” she continued. 

After receiving a statement from protest organizers to “Rally outside @6P”, protesters and spectators started to disperse from Blackburn near four in the afternoon to collect supplies for those inside the building, and prepare for the long night ahead. 

As night fell on the Yard, and 6 p.m. approached, Bison returned to Blackburn with even more intensity than what they had shown before. What seemed to be on the minds of many, both protesters and spectators, was exactly how long the students planned to occupy the building.

Senior political science and criminology double-major Aniyah Vines, who organized the protest, began the rally by addressing the crowd through a facetime call played through a megaphone. Vines spoke for roughly 10 minutes without leaving the building. 

In her speech, Vines listed a new demand, calling for academic and legal immunity for all protesters.

“We are not here for the crumbs,”  Vines explained, “we are here for the whole pie.” In the final moments of the call she described the crowd as a “protective shield” for those inside. She finished by saying they would not leave the building until their demands were met.

Past the glass doors and through a lobby of about six campus police officers, an encampment of protesters continued to fight, never forgetting their responsibilities as students; attending virtual classes, taking midterms and turning in assignments to stay on top of their work.

This was before 6:34 p.m., when Marcus Lyles, the campus chief of police told the students that the WiFi was going to be shut off.

Facing many tribulations from the university, students continued to show support. Dozens of protesters brought hotspots for internet connection, fans and a plethora of food and toiletries to help those inside. Bags of hot meals and packs of water were passed through the crowd, one by one, until they reached the doors of the building and were brought inside. 

Organizations like Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, and the D.C. Freedom Fighters came out in support of the protesters.

In the background, chants of “Show me what community looks like! This is what community looks like!” could be heard echoing throughout the Yard.

Vines expressed her gratitude for the support from the Howard community, “It feels empowering, as a Bison, as an HBCU student, this is the reason why I’m here. If I just wanted a school in which I just went to class, I would have just went to a PWI. I’m at an HBCU because I’m trying to cultivate myself as a leader, a change-maker.”

Vines also wanted students to know they are “no different than me. I started as a freshman, right now I’m a senior, and literally a majority of the people that are inside of Blackburn right now are freshman, so they have just as much power as I do…I see great futures, I see advocates, I see organizers right here. I see good troublemakers right here.”

In another effort to drive those inside the building out, at 10 p.m. administration turned off the air conditioner inside of Blackburn. 

Although #BlackburnTakeover has caused much tension throughout the university, students still managed to find joy they sang and danced to music throughout the night. A large majority of the protesters stayed overnight in sleeping bags outside of the building. 

Tonight, Oct. 14, at 6 p.m., the protesters are holding an Activism 101 rally in the same location.

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