Northwestern University President Morty Schapiro delivered a strong condemnation of recent anti-police demonstrations from students and alleged agitators in Evanston, Illinois, over the weekend, marking a rare instance of a college president condemning left-wing unrest.
In a letter published on Monday afternoon, Schapiro said that the university recognized “the many injustices faced by Black and other marginalized groups” and explained that he believes concerns about policing and criminal justice reform are valid. But he quickly drew a line in the sand, saying the university would “continue improving” the police department but not abolish it, as protesters have suggested. He also said the university would not stand for law-breaking.
“What started as peaceful protests have recently grown into expressions that have been anything but peaceful or productive. Crowds blocked the streets of downtown Evanston and nearby residential areas, disrupting businesses and local families, defacing property and violating laws and University standards. Some of the instigators appear not to be Northwestern students at all, but rather outside activists,” said Schapiro.
Dismissing the idea that demonstrators have simply been trying to gain attention from officials to further their own cause, Schapiro suggested organizers in recent days have been trying to provoke a response from the university police department by escalating their tactics, which he called an unacceptable overstep.
“I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the overstepping of the protestors. They have no right to menace members of our academic and surrounding communities,” said the university president. “When students and other participants are vandalizing, lighting fires, and spray-painting phrases such as ‘kill the pigs,’ we have moved well past legitimate forms of free speech.”
According to The Daily Northwestern, the school’s student newspaper, the local organization “NU Community Not Cops” led about 300 demonstrators to Schapiro’s house on Saturday night to demand he abolish the university police department.
“Divest from NUPD, disband NUPD, invest in Black lives and get the f*** out of our University,” one student shouted toward a crowd, reported the news agency.
Schapiro, who had police officers outside his home, condemned the demonstrators for bringing “vile and personal” attacks to him while his family should have been asleep. He also said the crowd chanted other things, such as “f*** you Morty,” and “Piggy Morty,” and explained that “the latter comes dangerously close to a longstanding trope against observant Jews like myself.”
“To those protesters and their supporters who justify such actions, I ask you to take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that this isn’t actually ‘speaking truth to power’ or furthering your cause. It is an abomination, and you should be ashamed of yourselves,” said Schapiro.
The university president also said that any Northwestern students who violated university policy or broke the law would be held accountable for their actions.
“If you haven’t yet gotten my point, I am disgusted by those who chose to disgrace this University in such a fashion,” added Schapiro.
He concluded: “I remain as open and willing as ever to speak to any member of the Northwestern family who has concerns about the safety of this campus and everyone who is part of it. But I refuse to engage with individuals who continue to use the tactics of intimidation and violence.”
Northwestern University is about half an hour from Chicago, which was a hotbed for left-wing unrest earlier this summer, including an incident where black-clad individuals ambushed and injured police officers guarding a statue of Christopher Columbus.