Amherst students release list of demands protesting ‘free speech’ signs

The ‘Amherst Uprising’ wants the school to apologize for its ‘institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism,’ among other things.

One of the demands includes removing all references to Lord Jeffrey, the school’s unofficial mascot.
One of the demands includes removing all references to Lord Jeffrey, the school’s unofficial mascot. –Nathaniel Brooks/The New York Times

A group of 11 students at Amherst College, a private liberal arts school in western Mass., issued a list of 11 demands to administrators that includes making them apologize for signs that mourned the death of free speech.

The group, who call themselves the Amherst Uprising, said the college’s president Biddy Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that says the school doesn’t tolerate the actions of students who posted the “All Lives Matter’’ posters, and the “Free Speech’’ posters that stated “in memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri Protests: Free Speech.’’

“Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats;’’ the post said. “Alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.’’

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Another one of the 11 demands says that Martin needs to apologize for the college’s “institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latinx racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/ indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism.’’

Students asked administrators to excuse them from classes so they could participate in protests and sit-ins. They’re also requesting that the president inform alumni that any racist or critical reactions to the protests are intolerable.

They want Martin to issue a statement by 5 p.m. condemning the inherent racist nature of the school’s unofficial mascot, The Lord Jeff, and then to remove all imagery associated with it in the next year.

The Lord Jeff is a nickname for Jeffrey Amherst, who was a British army officer believed to have engineered the idea of giving Native Americans smallpox blankets during the French and Indian War.

The group set a deadline of Wednesday, Nov. 18 for action by the administration on the rest of the demands.

“If these goals are not initiated within the next 24 to 48 hours, and completed by November 18th, we will organize and respond in a radical manner, through civil disobedience,’’ the group wrote. “If there is a continued failure to meet our demands, it will result in an escalation of our response.’’

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