A display set up by a group of conservative students a Dartmouth College's Collis Center last week in honor of National Police Week was destroyed by Black Lives Matter protesters. The tribute, created by the school's College Republicans organization and featuring the slogan "Blue Lives Matter," was replaced Friday morning with "Black Lives Matter" posters.
Several students, who declined to comment, sat across from the new BLM posters, which were set up at around 11 a.m. Friday. Many students remained in the area, apparently guarding the BLM posters, until later Friday evening, the Dartmouth Review reported.
Saturday morning, Collis Center employees arrived to discover the vandalized “Blue Lives Matter” display. According to the college paper, workers removed the new “Black Lives Matter” posters at around 11 a.m. Saturday and allowed the College Republicans to fix their display on the board, which they’d reserved.
In light of the backlash their message received, the College Republicans mounted new signs on the board that read, “We will not be silenced, Blue Lives Matter” and copies of an email from Collis Center Director Ann Hall sent Saturday morning to College President Phil Hanlon and the Board of Trustees, describing the display, when and how it was approved, as well as the vandalism.
The newly designed bulletin board also included a sign that read, “Bulletin Board Reserved for the College Republicans. Do not post.”
But the dispute was not resolved that quickly. According to the Review, several Black Lives Matter posters were placed on the board next to the new College Republicans display. Those posters read, “You cannot co-opt the movement against state violence to memorialize its perpetrators. #blacklivesmatter."
President Hanlon addressed the matter in a campus-wide email sent Sunday morning. In the email, Hanlon called the initial act of vandalism “an unacceptable violation of freedom of expression,” adding that any students found to be involved in tampering with the “Police Lives Matter” sign will face disciplinary action.
The email, signed by Hanlon, Provost Carolyn Dever, Dean of the College Rebecca Biron and vice provost for student affairs Inge-Lise Ameer, also noted a November incident in which t-shirts were removed from a Black Lives Matter display in Collis. That display featured 74 shirts representing 74 unarmed people who were killed by police in 2015.
Hanlon wrote that both the November incident and the recent vandalism of the National Police Week display promoted the “silencing of free exchange.”
Collis staff did not see the content of the College Republicans’ display before it was installed, Hall noted in her email to Hanlon and the Board of Trustees. The initial request included a title, requested dates and a description of the display.
The College Republicans’ request did not, however, include the phrase, “Blue Lives Matter.”
Mikala Williams, one of the students who replaced the College Republicans’ display, said that she and several other students removed the “Blue Lives Matter” signs because they believed it condoned police violence against black people, who comprise 5 percent of the college.
“It was taken down by students and replaced because it actively co-opted a movement that is supposed to comment on police brutality against black individuals in this country,” she told the Review. “It took that and by framing that as ‘Blue Lives Matter,’ it normalizes and naturalizes violence against people of color in this country. And that is not okay. That is in no way okay.”
Friday night, some students sent out an email titled, “A Letter to Campus,” criticizing the usage of “Blue Lives Matter” as “co-opting a movement intended to protect the livelihood of Black people.”
“This slogan denies that black bodies are subjected to disproportionate state violence,” the anonymous email read, according to the Review. “This has nothing to do with individual police officers.”
The email added that the “Blue Lives Matter” phrase “facilitates the erasure of black lives.” It also said that the removal of the display was meant to show “the severity of the violence people of color face on this campus.”
The College Republicans posted a statement on its Facebook page at 2:18 p.m. Friday, lamenting the vandalism and explaining why they set up their display in the first place:
“We hope that the Dartmouth community and the United States at large joins us in appreciation of the challenging work that law enforcement officers perform,” the statement concludes.