Students at the University of Connecticut’s Rainbow Center publicly read from a statement Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter disapproving of Attorney General nomination Jeff Sessions, in solidarity with Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
The event was hosted as a direct response to Republicans in the Senate invoking Rule 19 on Warren Wednesday morning. The rule prevents Senators from impugning another Senator, and it effectively silenced Warren when she read King’s letter to Session’s confirmation committee.
“I think it’s important that we think critically about the things that are going on around us and not letting people be silenced…when we have the power to amplify them,” event organizer and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) professor Barbara Gurr said.
Gurr said that she felt the silencing of Senator Warren was a disturbing symbol of the censorship of democracy.
“I don’t just see Elizabeth Warren being silenced, I see democracy being silenced,” Gurr said.
Erin Bannan, a sixth-semester sociology major said that the silencing of Senator Warren is concerning.
“She [Elizabeth Warren] was just shut down and not allowed to talk which is not only disrespectful for her, it’s disrespectful to our entire country. That’s what democracy is, being able to discuss things,” Bannan said.
Merilee Sader, an eighth-semester WGSS major, said she was concerned by the act of silencing King through silencing Warren.
“Her [King’s] writing is still incredibly relevant, so for that to be silenced is sad and a little terrifying,” Sader said.
After the initial reading in the Rainbow Center, which was briefly interrupted by a fire alarm at the Student Union, some students volunteered to be filmed reading the letter.
Gurr asked the students who had gathered if they thought King’s letter was still relevant.
“I think it’s still incredibly relevant,” Zach Corolla, a sixth-semester spanish major, said. “If that stopped him from getting a federal judgeship, that’s a huge blemish on his reputation.”
Corolla said that he does not feel Sessions has changed in a way that would nullify King’s criticisms of him.
“(King said) Minorities are underrepresented in government, that was true in 1976 and it’s still just as true,” Corolla said.
Heather Norris, a tenth-semester and WGSS major said that incidents such as this show the sharp divides that exist in the country between “what is deemed justifiable and what isn’t.”
“It just shows where we are as a country and how far we still have to go,” Norris said.
Corolla said that he found the reading to be an appropriate event for the Rainbow Center to host.
“It’s very chilling to read it, because Coretta Scott King has been on the front line of so many great things, so it’s very fitting to read it in this space,” Corolla said.
Gurr said that she thinks events such as the reading are important because they prompt students to think critically about current events.
“I’m tremendously grateful to all of the students who showed interest and expressed a desire to be a part of this, and converse about it and read the letter and think thoroughly and thoughtfully about the letter,” Gurr said.