Scot Esdaile, president of the Connecticut chapter of the NAACP, called on students to “continue to motivate, continue to mobilize, continue to organize and get justice” during an event at the University of Connecticut African American Cultural Center (AACC) Wednesday evening.
The event, called Meeting of Healing, was co-sponsored by Brothers Reaching Our Society (BROS) and the NAACP in order to “create a safe space for people to come and to discuss their feelings about (Tuesday) night’s events,” according to Milcah Sajous, the SUBOG concert community development chair and a fifth-semester HDFS major.
The meeting served as an open forum. Students vocalized their confusion over why the speech by Lucian Wintrich was approved, one of whom was Nathan Nugent, a third-semester pre-sports management major.
“I couldn’t really put into words what I was feeling because it almost felt as if there was no understanding amongst the administration towards students, especially students of color,” Nugent said.
Many of the students at the meeting condemned the university’s decision to allow the speaker.
“(Wintrich is) the prime example of the Trump administration. He likes to troll people on social media,” Stephen Sam, the president of BROS and a fifth-semester CSE-Engineering double major, said.
Sajous agreed the event shouldn’t have taken place.
“Honestly, I feel like this was just disrespectful,” she said.
Russel Tomlinson, a seventh-semester engineering physics major, was disappointed by the way the university reacted to the situation.
“The way the university handled things, it shows gross negligence and a lack of accountability,” Tomlinson said.
Tomlinson suggested the university screen invited speakers to prevent firebrands like Wintrich.
“They do it to us as students, so they should do it to everyone else,” said Tomlinson.
Other students at the meeting focused on the role police played during the speech.
Abby Katz, the UConn Black Students Association treasurer and fifth-semester individualized major, said she was feeling uncomfortable about the speech, but only felt threatened once she entered the room.
“As soon as I walked into the room and saw police officers and event staff in that room, that’s when I started to feel threatened,” Katz said.
Katz said she became wary that Wintrich’s intentions were what caused the increase in security.
Wendy Marte, a first-semester political science and sociology double major who was among the people protesting outside the event, said she wanted an apology from the police for prioritizing the protection of Wintrich over the protestors.
“At the end of the day, they’re here to keep us safe. They’re here to make sure we don’t feel this kind of way,” Marte said.
Either way, there was consensus that the community needs to band together.
Alleyha Dannett, third-semester Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies and Human Rights double major, felt the community was still scattered.
“As a community, addressing what the solidarity looked like for us and how do we actually band together practically, is really critical to even proceeding further,” she said.
Nicole Hamilton, UConn chapter NAACP treasurer and fifth-semester Management Information Systems major, reminded the students at the meeting that these issues go beyond just UConn.
“This isn’t just a UConn issue; this is an American issue,” Hamilton said.
Shelby Haydu is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.