CHICAGO (CBS) — Students marched and chanted for hours Saturday on the campus of the University of Chicago and in the nearby Hyde Park and Kenwood neighborhoods.
Protesters called for defunding the university police force, and funding more student programs.
Students occupied a portion of the street near 49th and Greenwood in the Kenwood neighborhood, outside the provost’s home. Students said they planned to stay until they get a public meeting addressing their concerns.
Hundreds of people, mostly students and young adults, marched around the university campus and surrounding neighborhoods.
They called on the school to disarm University of Chicago Police Department officers, disclose the department’s budget, reduce funding by 50%, and ultimately abolish the force by 2022.
They want the focus of school spending on the community and students, rather than UCPD.
“We are out here today to first and foremost demand that the University of Chicago defund and disband the UCPD,” student organizer Alicia Hurtado said.
Protesters were asked who would answer the call if someone is robbed or attacked on campus if the UCPD is disbanded.
“I think with that question the more important thing to look at is not who’s responding per se, because once the initial crime happens we’re not solving any of the underlying issues that are causing communities to hurt in the way that … causes specific people to harm others,” Hurtado said.
In a statement the University of Chicago said, “The police department provides a vital service.”
“There has been cause for reflection on the role of law enforcement,” the university added. “Our public safety including security and policing can be improved.”
Protest organizers demanded funding stripped from UCPD be used to support students of color through cultural centers and other social and educational programs.
“UCPD doesn’t make me feel safe at all. What makes me feel safe is my sense of community that I’ve built here with other students of color, with other organizers, with other people I know who have my back and I have their back,” said student organizer Chioma Nwoye.
What are the next steps if their demands aren’t met?
“Honestly the more important question there is why aren’t our demands being met? Why do we have to keep doing this over and over again?” Nwoye said.
No indication from the university they will meet the stated demands
The university said the administration has undertaken transformative changes for UCPD over the past 10 years, and pledges to do more.
There were no reports of problems connected to Saturday’s protest.