University of Delaware students are using TikTok to get millions of people to care about their campus protests over a brutal assault

·5 min read
Students protest at the University of Delaware
University of Delaware students gather for an on-campus protest organized on TikTok. Courtesy of Kiera Spann
  • University of Delaware students used TikTok to organize protests of more than 500 people.

  • They're protesting the school's response after a classmate was charged with assault and kidnapping.

  • TikTok "is an incredibly powerful tool, especially when it comes to social change," one organizer said.

Students at the University of Delaware began protesting for better campus safety after a classmate was charged with assault and kidnapping.

But videos from the demonstrations have spread far beyond the school, as organizers have used TikTok to raise awareness, organize the protests, and promote their cause to millions of viewers.

Videos shared on the app show hundreds - over 500, according to one TikTok - of students gathering near campus, accusing the school of putting its reputation over the safety of its students.

Students, including 20-year-old Kiera Spann and 21-year-old Brianna Apple, have posted videos from the protests and used their platforms to educate millions of viewers on TikTok about what's happening on their campus in Newark, Delaware.

"TikTok, and social media in general, is an incredibly powerful tool, especially when it comes to social change and justice," Spann told Insider. "People will no longer be silenced. We've seen as much social activism from younger generations, and I believe a large part of that is due to social media."

@famousblonde

please share. we deserve to feel safe on our campus. stop all of the /iolence. ##ud ##universityofdelaware ##college ##delaware ##protest ##dv ##share

♬ Rise Up - Andra Day

Spann was one of the key organizers in the protests after her first video on the subject garnered more than 7 million views. She said she "couldn't be happier with how it went."

"I can't imagine where we would be without social media here at UD," Spann said. Would the administration have even issued a statement had it not been for my video to receive over 7 million views and it to begin to gain national attention? Social media can truly change the world, and in this case, it's really starting to."

The protests, which were held earlier this week, took place after the 20-year-old student Brandon Freyre was accused of brutally attacking a woman he knew in an off-campus apartment last week.

According to court documents seen by The Associated Press, prosecutors say the woman had gone to Freyre's house early Friday morning, and an argument ensued.

The Newark Police Department told NBC Philadelphia that the woman, who is also a Delaware student, told officers that Freyre then hit her with blunt objects, threatened to kill her, sprayed her eyes with spray paint, choked her unconscious, locked her in an apartment, and pushed her down the stairs before she could escape and call 911.

She was later treated at a hospital for severe bruises and cuts on her head, lip, neck, chest, and knees, court documents state.

University of Delaware students protest on campus
University of Delaware students spoke out against university administrators at the protests. Courtesy of Kiera Spann

Police told the Newark Post that the incident happened on October 8, and on Monday, Freyre was charged with second-degree kidnapping, second-degree assault, third-degree assault, strangulation, terroristic threatening, and criminal mischief.

Freyre has since been released from custody after paying his bond, according to the Delaware Department of Correction. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for November 10.

Students at Delaware have criticized the university for waiting until Tuesday to release a statement about the incident, including Spann, who said the response from the university has been "very disappointing," and Apple, who said she's "embarrassed" by the response.

"While the faculty and many fraternities have actually had very active members at our protests, the administration seems to just be doing performative damage control," Spann said.

The statement on Tuesday said officials had decided to "separate" Freyre from the school and expelled him from his fraternity, Kappa Delta Rho.

Andrea Boyle Tippett, the director of external relations at the University of Delaware, told Rolling Stone that the school did not immediately notify students because it was a "dating violence incident" that didn't pose as an "imminent threat" to campus.

She told Insider that Freyre "was in custody within hours and barred from campus that same day."

"There was no continued threat to our students, and thus, the university did not issue a statement, press release or alert," she said.

This was not an adequate response from the school in the eyes of Spann and Apple.

Spann described an incident that occurred about two weeks ago in which an extremist group was spouting hate speech on campus. Less than a day later, after the protesters were "long gone," students got a message from the university's president about the event, she said.

"Using the excuse, 'no one was in any imminent danger,' to justify sending out a schoolwide statement doesn't seem to apply in all cases, just this one," Spann said.

"It has also been scary because if there is one abuser, then there are probably hundreds of others. Also, since we weren't informed immediately, the school is sending a message that they don't deal with these situations, which sends a green light to others who could commit such acts; the school is enabling other abusers," Apple said.

"While I don't like the way they went about it," Spann said, "as long as we get the changes I think that's what's most important.

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