Hundreds of students gathered in Frost Library Thursday and Friday to protest racial injustice and demonstrate solidarity with student protesters at the University of Missouri and Yale.
The sit-in began Thursday at 1 p.m. and entered its 30th hour Friday evening, when student leaders announced they would continue the sit-in until further notice.
The event was originally advertised on Facebook as a one-hour sit-in Thursday afternoon. According to the Facebook event, students organized the sit-in to “stand in solidarity with the students in Mizzou, Yale, South Africa and every other institution across the world where black people are marginalized and threatened.”
But the event showed no signs of stopping after an hour, and throughout the day more students gathered in Frost to speak about their experiences with racism at Amherst and beyond. On Thursday afternoon, Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein read a statement on behalf of Martin, who was preparing to board a flight to Japan. But soon after, Martin canceled her trip to Japan so that she could speak to students at Amherst.
Later in the afternoon, some leaders of the protest formed a movement called “Amherst Uprising.” When Martin arrived back at Amherst shortly after 9 p.m., the group presented her with a list of 11 demands.
Among the demands was a call for Martin and board of trustees chairman Cullen Murphy ’74 to issue an apology for “our institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latinx racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma and classism.”
The group also asked Martin to issue a statement by Friday, Nov. 13 at 5 p.m. condemning the use of the Lord Jeff as Amherst’s unofficial mascot. Leaders of the protest said they would occupy Frost until the first of their demands were met and asked that Martin initiate the process of responding to all 11 items within the next 24 to 48 hours. The protesters asked Martin to finish responding to their demands by Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 11:59 p.m.
On Friday evening, Amherst Uprising leaders announced that Martin would not be able to issue a statement on the Lord Jeff at this time, but that the board of trustees would be meeting to discuss the mascot in January. In response, Amherst Uprising leaders said they would make posters condemning the Lord Jeff to distribute on campus and at the Amherst-Williams football game on Saturday.
Another one of the demands focused on last year’s “All Lives Matter” posters and on posters that appeared in Valentine Dining Hall Thursday morning in response to the Missouri protests. The signs read “In memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri protests: free speech.” The organizers asked Martin to denounce the posters and require the students who posted them to “attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.”
They also asked Martin to support a revision of the honor code “to reflect a zero-tolerance policy for racial insensitivity and hate speech.”
Three students present Thursday night said they would begin a hunger strike. These students were not leaders of the Amherst Uprising group, but in a blog post on Amherst Soul, they said they supported the group’s goals.
“We see our call to action not as a separate, divisive movement, but as a more radical expression of the same struggle,” they wrote.