OBSERVER NEWS

SAISers “Walk Out” For Justice

Students, faculty, and staff gather in the Nitze lobby on Dec. 2 to hear SAIS students Cory Bullock and Amanda Roach speak about rising racial tensions in the United States. (Photos by Zirra Banu)

Students, faculty, and staff gather in the Nitze lobby on Dec. 2 to hear SAIS students Cory Bullock and Amanda Roach speak about rising racial tensions in the United States. (Photos by Zirra Banu)

by JAMEEL KHAN

WASHINGTON — At 3:30pm on Wednesday, Dec. 2, the Nitze lobby swelled with students, faculty, and administrators gathered to hear second-year students Cory Bullock and Amanda Roach speak spontaneously about rising racial tensions in the United States in the wake of the Staten Island grand jury decision to not indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the July 17 death of Eric Garner.

“I was sitting in class angry,” Bullock said. “After the decision was made, a friend of mine from [the New York foreign policy school] SIPA said they were staging a walkout in protest for the decision. Being a prominent foreign policy school, we should also be at forefront of domestic issues too. I saw her posting on Facebook, and I thought we should do something too.”

In short order, Bullock and Roach drafted a message to send to the SAIS community for social media, the administration, and the SGA. Their aim was to raise awareness. “The walkout is a peaceful sign of protest and solidarity in light of historic and recent injustices in Ferguson, MO, Staten Island, NY and beyond,” read the forwarded email from the SGA. “As students, administrators and professors in a world-renowned foreign policy institution, we should also stay abreast of human rights inequities here in America.”

IMG_3194Once the lobby filled, Bullock stood on a chair and shared a few words. “I’m actually shocked by the turnout,” Bullock started. “[Recently, there have been] two high-profile cases of young black men being killed by police officers. [And] we just learned in the past week one of the indictments [for the Eric Garner case], so this sends a message in the United States and the world on the value of black life here.”

Bullock continued, “It’s sort of embarrassing that we teach human rights and democracy abroad, that we talk about the Shia and Sunni conflict abroad…but for some reason we are so uncomfortable talking about these issues here in the United States.”

An estimated seventy-five people attended. Many students walked out of class. Administrators left their offices, and a few passerby stopped to listen. “We wanted to show solidarity among IR schools,” Roach said. “For many weeks, it seemed people were not talking about these issues inside.” After the event, a group of SAISers went to related rallies at the Justice Department and the White House.

“I was overwhelmed by the support,” Bullock said. “I was comforted by the fact that so many of my colleagues were interested in this cause. No one was vocal about it and [after] so many students came up to me. A lot of students were interested in discussing this issue, but there was no forum for it.”

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2 Comments on SAISers “Walk Out” For Justice

  1. Students at the Harvard Kennedy School stand with you in solidarity. This isn’t an isolate situation, we’re all hurt and we will not be silent.

    Photo: Die-In at Harvard Memorial Church (http://tinyurl.com/harvardcantbreathe1)
    Photo: #ICantBreathe (http://goo.gl/A72ppl)
    Video: Flash Mob at Kennedy Forum (http://youtu.be/iExodJN3XJ4)

  2. Once again Cory and Amanda make the alumni of SAIS proud. They have been stalwart in making SAIS a friendly and productive place for black Americans to assert and discuss their issues where black alumni have not always had the soapbox. While I was there I sat as the lone African American in many of my classes trying to discuss the issue of Trayvon Martin, while my colleagues sat silent. They would have been grand colleagues to have during my tenure and Dean Nasr and the staff would be best served by engaging students like them to address these issues. For those would be the actions of an elite institution of international economics and international relations.

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