CHICAGO (CBS) — A group of Northwestern University students seeking to abolish the campus police force is calling on university president Martin Schapiro to resign, saying he is not invested in the safety and emotional well-being of Black students.
The call for Schapiro’s ouster comes after he lashed out at protesters who vandalized local businesses and lit fires this past weekend as they demanded the abolishment of the Northwestern University Police Department.
In a letter to the Northwestern community, Schapiro accused protesters of trying to provoke police officers into retaliating against them.
“I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the overstepping of the protesters. They have no right to menace members of our academic and surrounding communities. When students and other participants are vandalizing property, lighting fires and spray-painting phrases such as ‘kill the pigs,’ we have moved well past legitimate forms of free speech,” he wrote.
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The Daily Northwestern reported that, during demonstrations in Evanston this weekend, protesters smashed window at the local Whole Foods, spray-painted graffiti on other businesses, and burned a “We’re N This Together” that had hung on the Weber Arch on campus and left it outside Schapiro’s house.
Schapiro also condemned protesters for calling him “piggy Morty,” claiming the insult “comes dangerously close to a longstanding trope against observant Jews like myself. Whether it was done out of ignorance or out of anti-Semitism, it is completely unacceptable.”
“I ask them to consider how their parents and siblings would feel if a group came to their homes in the middle of the night to wake up their families with such vile and personal attacks. 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,” Schapiro wrote.
Members of NU Community Not Cops (NUCNC), who led the protests, accused Schapiro of intentionally twisting their words, saying they condemn anti-Semitism, and noting “the term ‘pig’ has been used by Black radical movements for generations to invoke the structural violence that police officers present.”
“In the context of our protests, which are very clearly in response to anti-Black police violence on campus and in Evanston, this was the meaning invoked. Morton Schapiro was called a pig by members of our campaign because he aligns himself with law enforcement and prioritizes police and private property over the lives of Black students,” NUCNC said in a statement.
The group said it was “absurd” for Schapiro to suggest they were invoking an anti-Semitic trope against him, and not using the term “pig” as a reference to police.
“Regardless of our intent, we apologize to our Jewish community, to individuals both inside and outside of the campaign who may have been harmed by language utilized at the protest,” the group wrote. “However, we do not apologize to Morton Shapiro. False claims of anti-Semitism have been used throughout Northwestern’s history to shut down student activists, especially Palestinian activists, and to divide coalitions by falsely claiming that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”
NUCNC also rejected Schapiro’s claim that some of the protesters appeared to be outside activists acting as instigators, and compared it to rhetoric used by President Donald Trump and other critics of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We are Northwestern students who are disgusted by Morton Schapiro and his inability to lead Northwestern University. Black students deserve leadership that is invested in their safety and emotional well-being. Morton Schapiro has consistently proved that he does not. We are calling for his resignation,” the group wrote.