More than 100 Northwestern students held a rally Tuesday to demand that the university provide greater support for Black students, change security and policing policies, and fulfill unmet demands from the Bursar’s Office takeover in 1968.

In a plaza next to The Rock, a central campus landmark, organizers passed a microphone to share their frustrations and demands with the crowd of students. The action primarily stemmed from the university’s response to the recent fatal shooting at Clark Street Beach and new restrictions on overnight keycard access to The Black House, the only dedicated Black space on campus.

“If neglected, we will continue to protest,” Onyeka Chigbogwu said at the rally Tuesday at Northwestern University. Credit: Richard Cahan

Speaker Jem Feuilladieu criticized the university for not updating students about last week’s shooting after the lockdown was lifted until an email the following afternoon.

“In this email, administration responded by promising to increase police presence on campus,” Feuilladieu said. “In light of this, we gather here today to protest against policing and to honor the life of Jacquis Irby.”

Imani Billups (foreground) joins Northwestern University students at the rally on campus. Credit: Richard Cahan

The organizers listed their demands in a petition that has been circulating on social media signed by more than 400 people and 23 campus organizations as of 7:15 p.m. Tuesday. Included are four demands from the 1968 Bursar’s Office takeover, which organizers said the university still hasn’t met 55 years later, such as officially acknowledging systemic racism at the school and hiring a Black counselor for Black students.

Speaker Onyeka Chigbogwu said these demands were included not just to honor the legacy of the Bursar’s Office takeover, but also to address the material needs of Black students today.

Jordan Muhammad leads the crowd at a rally promoting Black rights on the Northwestern University campus.

“Those things, because they’re unmet, are still problems for students,” Chigbogwu said. “So they’re just problems that we’ve put up with for 55 years, and every time we complain about them, we get shut down. So we’re never going to let up on those until they’re met.”

During the rally, speakers also read poetry, shouted chants with the crowd and held a moment of silence for Jacquis Irby, the Skokie 18-year-old who died in Wednesday’s shooting. Afterward, organizers and attendees painted The Rock with messages in support of the petition.

The Rock on Northwestern’s campus is painted with messages supporting a petition from Black students. Credit: Alex Harrison

Chigbogwu said connecting the petition and rally to last week’s shooting was important because of the large influence Northwestern exercises over Evanston and its residents, both in the past and today.

“Northwestern isn’t just here; it causes harm to Evanston,” Chigbogwu said. “A lot of the over-policing, the segregation of the city that leads to some of the violence like we saw last week, it all can be tracked back to Northwestern’s presence here.”

The petition set a deadline of 5 p.m. Friday, April 21, for the university to respond. Speaker Michaiah Ligon said during the rally that organizers are planning a series of actions if Northwestern does not meet their demands.

“We will continue to protest and practice other forms of demonstration and activism until our demands are met,” Ligon said. “We aren’t stopping today, we aren’t stopping tomorrow, we aren’t stopping even after our meeting with the president.”

Alex Harrison

Alex Harrison joined the RoundTable in 2022 for the summer in between his undergraduate and graduate studies at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Since then, he continues to write...

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