Chapel Hill, NC – A group of University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill students and their newly-formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) group are demanding the campus’s acting police chief be fired for pushing students out of a closed meeting late last month.
Cell phone footage of the June 30 encounter showed a group of students yelling at police outside a UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees meeting, WRAL reported.
The purpose of the meeting was for the trustees to deliberate whether to grant tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones, who was initially denied tenure due to her controversial work involving race, according to the news outlet.
Police tried to usher demonstrators out of the meeting when the trustees moved to closed session for deliberations, but a group of them refused to leave, Chapelboro.com reported.
As officers pushed the group backwards towards the exit, the group pushed back, video footage showed.
Among them was Black Student Movement Vice President Julia Clark, who was bumped in the face by UNC Police Department Interim Chief Rahsheem Holland as he was working to push the mob out of the room.
Clark later alleged Chief Holland punched her in her face.
“At 40 seconds there is actual footage of UNCPD Officer Holland punching me in the face and knocking off my mask completely,” she captioned the video footage posted to Twitter later that day.
“This is how our university treats Black students. We were completely unarmed asking for the bare minimum. Transparency. I am exhausted and traumatized,” Clark added.
She also shared a photo of her alleged injury.
“I never thought I would be here staring at a bruise on my face because a grown man punched me. This is my worst fear as a Black woman,” Clark wrote. “Officer Holland put his hands on me today and punched me hard enough that my mask flew off my face and a bruise is left on my cheek.”
— Tyler Fleming (@tyler_fleming96) June 30, 2021
Clark said she later met with UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Trustee Gene Davis to discuss the protest and alleged assault, as well as to give them a list of 13 demands created by the Black Student Movement, Chapelboro.com reported.
“These apologies and these statements that university officials give mean nothing to us because we have yet to see any action at all,” Clark complained at another protest held Monday night. “We have presented our demands to them for more than two weeks and have not seen one action step being taken.”
Chief Holland, a 20-year veteran of the UNC-Chapel Hill Police Department, was named interim chief on the heels of then-Chief David Perry’s resignation less than a week after the June 30 confrontation, WRAL reported.
The Black Student Movement said he should have been fired instead.
The group released a statement July 6 claiming “police violently attacked students” who were “protesting non-violently.”
Read our statement on the promotion of Rahsheem Holland as UNC Police Chief. pic.twitter.com/Lb0rsLL81a
— The Black Student Movement (@unc_bsm) July 6, 2021
“Not only does [Interim Chief Holland’s] pending promotion create a clear and present threat to the safety of Black student at UNC, but it further demonstrates this university’s commitment to the suffering of Black students and their comfortability with violence being perpetrated against us,” they declared.
The group said Chief Holland’s promotion is “despicable” and alleged he and other officers traumatized “so many Black students.”
“Given the unjust violence that he has perpetrated against our community, we demand that university leadership not appoint Rahsheem Holland as Interim UNC Campus Chief of Police and terminate his employment with the university immediately,” the Black Student Movement asserted.
“There cannot be a racial reckoning or an effort to improve the climate of our campus for Black students if those who blatantly disregard the safety of Black students, like Rahsheem Holland, are rewarded for abusing their power,” the statement read. “Black students are in danger of facing more violent and unjust assaults from campus police if this abominable decision is not corrected and we will continue to fight for Rahsheem Holland’s removal from our campus.”
Jarrah Faye, president of the newly-established UNC NAACP, said during a protest on Monday that it is surprising more students weren’t injured in the scuffle with Chief Holland and his officers, Chapelboro.com reported.
“Instead of the police just kindly making a suggestion for [the protesters] to move outside, they were pushed and punched,” Faye claimed. “I’m not surprised and I’m sure nobody else here is because they’re known for brutalizing students, and they’re known for specifically harassing black students.”
Guskiewicz said he is aware of the student protesters’ complaints and that the situation is being investigated, WRAL reported.
“We know there are questions and concerns about officers’ actions during the June 30 Board of Trustees meeting, and I have directed Vice Chancellor of Institutional Integrity and Risk Management George Battle to coordinate an external review of officers’ body camera footage,” he confirmed.
Faye said the protests won’t stop until Chief Holland is ousted, Chapelboro.com reported.
“We’re going to continue to come out here,” she vowed. “There’s going to be more rallies, more protests, more everything else until you truly live up to the Lux Libertas, or whatever the hell it is that you claim this university is, because for black students it is not. It never has been.”
About 35 people showed up for a demonstration outside the UNC-Chapel Hill South Building on Monday, The Daily Tar Heel reported.
The UNC Police Department has not responded to requests for comment, according to WRAL.