Protests take over campus on last week as BSU calls for action after alleged assault
Two white students have been arrested and charged after they allegedly assaulted a black male student Tuesday night on the University of Arizona campus.
UA Police Department officers identified and charged Matthew Frazier and Matthew Rawlings with misdemeanor assault on Friday, Sept. 13. They were originally referred to the UA Diversion Program without misdemeanor 1 charges, according to the police report.
The report stated that the victim, whose name has not been released, was walking near Árbol de la Vida Residence Hall when Frazier and Rawlings allegedly approached him and called him the “n-word.” One of the alleged assailants tackled him and punched him in the head. The victim said he was also kicked on the ground by a second person.
Frazier and Rawlings fled the scene after the alleged assault. Police identified the house they fled to, and one officer reported that Frazier appeared intoxicated and had fresh blood on his shirt when he came out to the porch.
Rawlings told police a black man yelled at Frazier from across the street, and then they tackled each other. Rawlings said he did not remember who threw the first punch.
According to the report, a Dean of Students referral and a hate crimes reporting worksheet were both completed the night of the alleged assault after the victim told officers he did not want to press charges.
The university’s Black Student Union released a statement after the assault, demanding accountability from UAPD and university administration.
“The victim suffering from this racially motivated attack has yet to be served justice,” the statement said. “The silence on this matter is threatening. Especially as black students, we deserve safety in our own community. The victim’s silence is warranted, but the administration’s is not.”
The statement demanded academic probation and suspension for the two alleged assailants, the names of the assailants to be released, the release of the incident report and a requirement for UAPD officers to complete “a cultural identity sensitivity program addressing the history of racially motivated discrimination.”
Fredian Tuyisenge, BSU’s director of community outreach and relations for the UA, said that releasing the statement felt more like a responsibility than a choice.
“We decided to release it because an injustice of one black person is an injustice to all black people,” Tuyisenge said. “We as a black student union fight, represent, educate, empower all black students on this campus ... It’s our mission and who we are as an organization.”
The BSU planned and led a protest on Friday, Sept. 13, to show solidarity with the student who was assaulted.
Tuyisenge said the goal of the protest was similar to that of the statement: to demand accountability from UAPD and administration.
“[The goal is] the university admits and takes accountability for this hate crime happening on campus,” Tuyisenge said. “The students are suspended and expelled from this campus. They follow through with our demands and what we’re asking for.”
The Daily Wildcat reported hundreds of students participating in the protest. BSU members criticized UAPD and members of the audience shared their experiences of being people of color on campus.
UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins released a statement on Thursday, Sept. 12, in which he referred to the assault as an “incident,” which Tuyisenge did not agree with.
“I’d also like to note that this has not been classified as a hate crime. It’s being referred to as an ‘incident,’ as a minor injury, when it is the exact definition of a hate crime,” Tuyisenge said. “I would have appreciated for the president to have said, ‘A black student was attacked by two white males and racial slurs were used upon him and physical violence was taken out on him.’”
In the statement, Robbins said he wanted the UA community to know that “racism, bias and violence will not be tolerated on this campus.”
Ana Mendoza, student body senator for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, said that she wanted to see UAPD held accountable.
“We need to hold UAPD accountable as well,” Mendoza said. “We saw it when they put charges up against three women of color last year and we see it today. It’s the lack of prosecution towards two white students ... The administration needs to check in with UAPD and hold them accountable for that.”
Mendoza said ASUA wanted to help students affected get their demands met.
“Visible support, again written support, we’re releasing a written statement. I know that’s just the first step towards actually helping students,” Mendoza said. “The second part is to make sure that the demands that they have listed are met to whatever capacity I can.”