Manchester University
Oak Leaves

October 2, 2020

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Photo provided by MU

Alumni Panel Discusses Protest, Racial Justice

Najma El

Dr. Katy Gray Brown hosted a panel during Homecoming to discuss the protests started by the death of George Floyd. The speakers, all Manchester alum, were 2012 graduate Ben Tapper, 2014 graduate Phil Keim, peace studies intern Virginia Rendler, who graduated in 2020 and more recent graduates Carissa Arnet and Chris Francois. They all graduated with a background in peace studies and have continued to fight for rights since. They each have participated in protesting in some form.

Carissa Arnet protested in Fort Wayne this summer. She and her brother, as well as other protestors, were arrested after witnessing others be arrested and attacked. She said the living conditions in jail were terrible. “We were given a mattress on the floor,” she said, leaving them little space to move without stepping on each other’s things. She also said they weren’t allowed to shower, so they smelled like spoiled milk for the time being. After their original masks were confiscated, Arnet said they were denied the right to wear masks until they were required to wear them before a judge. She and her brother were released due to their bond being posted by a GoFundMe page for arrested protestors.

Keim and Rendler are both from the Minneapolis area. They each got the opportunity to witness the National Guard arrive at the site of the protests. Both agreed that it did more harm than good. “It caused more chaos,” Rendler said.

Keim remembered the volume of the large vehicles and seeing them not far from some of the young, unarmed teens. “[I was] hoping that people had a similar realization that this is not a great response to what’s happening,” he said. 

The panelists offered students some suggestions if they are interested in aiding in the fight for change and basic human rights.

“Make sure you identify who the leaders are,” Tapper said. By reaching out to those that started the protest, students can find out the important details such as nearest restrooms and wash stations, or the layout of the location. This is important just in case police interfere.

Francois said: “You don’t have to protest in person.” They use TikTok to speak out on injustices and bring awareness. Protesting can be as simple as speaking out at the dinner table. “Being able to change one person’s mind is already a large contribution,” they said. “It’s a long fight; make sure you rest and take care of yourself and when you’re ready continue the fight.” As students continue to fight they have to remember to take time for themselves as well.