Hundreds of students marched from Tech to the Rock on Thursday afternoon to support Facilities Management employee Michael Collins, who allegedly discovered a stuffed bear hanging from his desk Dec. 3, and to protest racism at Northwestern. Students spoke out against discrimination, racist incidents and lack of institutional support in a rally at the Rock.
The march was organized by For Members Only and Alianza. The two groups held a forum discussion with Collins on Feb. 16.
Students began pouring onto the steps in front of the Technological Institute well before the event’s official start time of 1:30 p.m. Alianza and For Members Only leaders spoke to the crowd before starting the march at 1:50. Collins briefly thanked supporters outside of Tech, but did not march because of an upcoming court date.
“We’re here first and foremost to stand with Michael Collins,” said Lucia Leon, Communication junior and Alianza co-president, said. Alianza member Sandra Garnica, a Weinberg senior, reached out to Collins shortly after the incident. Since then, Alianza and FMO have teamed up for a letter-writing campaign.
While they marched, protesters chanted slogans including “Hey, hey, ho, ho, racism has got to go,” and “The people united will never be divided." They filled most of the sidewalk as NUPD officials oversaw the event. Leon said the groups had not received a permit, but had coordinated with the NUPD.
The march was intended to encourage members of the Northwestern community to be more inclusive and to take action in the wake of the Collins incident.
University spokesman Al Cubbage declined to comment on the incident, calling it a personnel matter. He had said he planned to attend the rally.
Weinberg sophomore Samantha Maeng said she marched “to show that students at Northwestern will not put up with racism.”
Maeng, a member of the Asian Pacific American Coalition, said she was surprised by the Collins incident. “Something really similar happened to an Asian American University worker in the 1990s and we really wanted to come out and support this event,” she said.
The protesters came from a wide variety of campus organizations, including ASG, Hillel, the Native American and Indigenous Students Alliance and the International Students Organization.
Weinberg senior Hayley Stevens, ASG vice president for Diversity and Inclusion, said she felt like she had to be in attendance.
“It’s so sad that Michael Collins even had to experience this horrible injustice in order for us to be here and so rallied up about this, but it’s created an incredible movement across campus,” she said.
Upon reaching the Rock, students gathered in the area between Harris and University Halls and took turns speaking through a megaphone.
Professors and faculty members were also in attendance. Protesters held a variety of signs, one reading “Our money comes from racists like Slivka” and another saying “Ricky Byrdsong. Confront Racism.”
Members of FMO and Alianza proceeded to cover the Rock in black paint. People in the crowd were then invited to come speak, or read a letter from the letter campaign.
Bienen senior Rohan Zhou-Lee criticized the lack of institutional support, particularly psychological counseling, for minority students.
“We cannot forget Mike [Collins]. We cannot forget all the people who killed themselves. We cannot forget the egging, or all the slurs,” Zhou-Lee said. “These have to be reasons for us to push forward.”
Garnica announced that FMO and Alianza would team up for a series of community discussions.
“These are going to be for us, to just get together and talk,” she said.
Leon said Alianza will also produce a video “that documents the racist events on campus in the past five to ten years.”
McCormick junior Courtney Bernat said she came to rally because of the insensitivity shown on campus.
“I just hope that this upsets all the right people,” Bernat said.
Calls to the Northwestern administration about the event were not returned.