UNC-Chapel Hill protesters are pushed out of trustees’ meeting after refusing to leave

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  • Nikole Hannah-Jones
    American journalist

UNC-Chapel Hill students protesting the lack of tenure for journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones yelled at UNC-CH trustees Wednesday afternoon and had to be pushed out by police after refusing to leave a meeting of the board.

About 75 students, organized by the campus Black Student Movement, had gathered outside before the meeting started, then were allowed into a ballroom of the Carolina Inn as the meeting began.

But once the board voted to go into closed session to discuss the tenure issue, the students refused to leave the room. Law enforcement was brought in to make them leave.

Demonstrators protest a UNC-Chapel Hill trustees meeting Wednesday, June, 30, 2021 as the board prepared to discuss and vote on tenure for distinguished journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.
Demonstrators protest a UNC-Chapel Hill trustees meeting Wednesday, June, 30, 2021 as the board prepared to discuss and vote on tenure for distinguished journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Students chanted “No Justice! No Peace!” as they were shoved into a hallway outside the room. They continued to shout, with some using a bullhorn aimed at the meeting room doors.

One protester said she was punched in the face.

When an officer told Julia Clark to move back, she took that to mean the officer felt threatened. Clark is the vice president of the UNC Black Student Movement.

“Be afraid,” Clark said. “Be afraid. I want you to be scared, because we are scared on this campus every day.”

Hannah-Jones shared a video of the altercation on Twitter asking anyone who has the names or contact information “for the sisters physically shoved out of this room” to send her a direct message.

Taliajah “Teddy” Vann, president of the Black Student Movement, yelled at the officers and the trustees through a megaphone after being forced out of the meeting.

She was frustrated that the board went into closed session and would not vote in public.

“What are you hiding?” Vann said.

“You say you care about Black lives, you’re lying through your (expletive) teeth,” Vann said. “Every time. And you have been for decades.”

“Y’all think y’all are safe hiding behind those doors?,” Vann said. “You’re not. Because our voices will be heard regardless.”

Lamar Richards, UNC’s student body president and a member of the Board of Trustees, then called one of the protesters. The protester held up the cell phone so that others could hear Richards.

He explained that the tenure discussion would not be in public to protect Hannah-Jones.

At that point, the students stopped yelling and chanting.

Richards tweeted shortly after the phone call that he wants to be clear it is legal and standard procedure to discuss tenure and personnel matters in closed session.

“The reason for this is crucial because depending on any outcome of this meeting we do not want there to be any contest made that could potentially impact/ interfere w/ stuff in the future surrounding this issue,” Richards tweeted. “Our fight is for her to be treated the same as every other candidate.”

Trustees appeared to be waiting for the crowd to clear before actually beginning the tenure discussion.

Board member Ralph Meekins was going in and out of the room to see the situation outside.

When Richards called Vann to tell her about why he voted for the meeting to go into closed session, Meekins said, “Now that’s leadership.”

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