“Black Lives Matter.”
“I’m Black and I’m proud.”
“No justice, no peace.”
These chants rang through the halls of the Academic Spine last Thursday as dozens of students marched across campus in protest of Lt. Col. Allen West’s scheduled speech in the Student Union that evening.
Young Americans for Freedom — a campus conservative club recognized as a special interest group by the Student Association — invited West (R-TX), a former U.S. Representative and retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, to deliver a speech and hold an open Q&A, titled “America is not racist.” In response to West’s anticipated speech, students walked through libraries and classrooms wearing signs with slogans like “Racism is Real.”
Samiha Islam, a sophomore statistics and human services major, says she was inspired to protest because she disagreed with the tone of the advertised speech.
“I’m here for the very fact that racism is real and it’s very sad that we still have to stand up for such a basic and simple statement,” Islam said. “It’s not even an opinion, it’s a very real part of our history and our current reality.”
Islam told The Spectrum she attended the demonstration because she wanted to hold UB accountable. She says this protest was a call for action addressed to the university.
“I think the protest is not just in response to the events going on tonight with Allen West, but also a statement to the university that you can’t just say you’re anti-racist. You have to support the students of color here and I feel like what we are doing here is just standing up for ourselves,” Islam said.
Two of the protesters requested anonymity because they fear for their safety after numerous threatening posts were published on Yik Yak. One of the protesters said they were inspired to speak out because they find West’s views to be repulsive.
“Today we are protesting against Allen West because there is no space for racism at UB,” the student told The Spectrum. “The UB Young Americans for Freedom organization is having a conference today saying that racism in America is not real and this white space is being funded by our school. Allen West had compared being LGBTQ to picking a flavor of ice cream, as if being gay is a choice. Allen West is invalidating the entire Black experience. This organization is also spreading pro-life and anti-woman propaganda.”
Another student, who also requested anonymity out of fear for their safety, echoed a similar sentiment.
“Today we are here to set the record straight that there is racism in America and we aren’t going to stand for it, and neither should UB,” the student said. “Allen West and his platform completely discriminate against the LGBTQ community, people of color and the Black community. Today we are here to show that we have a voice and UB should listen to its students.”
In a hand-delivered statement to The Spectrum regarding the event, UB said it does not “take a position on the views expressed by those who visit its campus,” and that clubs have the freedom to invite whichever speaker they want to their event.
“Student government-sponsored clubs have the ability to invite speakers of their choosing, as long as they abide by university guidelines and state laws concerning public events on campus,” the statement read.
While UB isn’t taking a position on the politics of the speech and subsequent protests, it says it is still trying to uphold a safe environment for all students.
“UB stands by its commitment to upholding its core values of diversity, inclusion and mutual respect at all times,” the university said. “University Police typically have a presence at on-campus public events to help ensure the safety of speakers and attendees.”
Kayla Estrada is an assistant news/features editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Kayla Estrada is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum. She is an English major who enjoys rainy weather, “Bob’s Burgers” and asking people who they voted for. When she’s not writing, she can be found hunting for odd-looking knick-knacks at the nearest thrift store.