Allen, the community organizer for Ignite NC, an activist organization aimed at social justice, was one of four protesters arrested while protesting Tuesday’s UNC Board of Governor’s meeting.
He said he and the other protesters have a longstanding history with the board and for many years have tried to foster a dialogue about its structure, representation and policies — to no avail.
“Now, as far as expectations, we’re looking to disrupt business as usual and reach out to encourage a dialogue — and make our displeasure with the decisions that have been made known by exercising our right to protest peacefully,” he said.
Department of Public Safety officers charged Allen, Olufemi Shittu and UNC seniors Jennifer Myers and Madeleine Scanlon with disorderly conduct and resisting and obstructing officers, said Joni Worthington, spokesperson for the UNC-system.
Scanlon was also charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer, Worthington said.
The protests began during a routine presentation from the educational planning committee, during which the board proposed cutting programs at East Carolina University, said board member Marty Kotis.
The protests were originally planned for the board meeting scheduled on Jan. 22 at N.C. A&T, which was rescheduled for Tuesday due to inclement weather.
Senior Shannon Brien said protesters were at the meeting to challenge a number of issues, including UNC-system President-elect Margaret Spellings. She said the arrests were frightening and unmerited, given the little warning protesters received from DPS. She said she was especially disturbed by Scanlon’s arrest, which was more physical than the others.
“She was picked up out of her seat and pulled into the air by three or four cops — the next thing I know, she’s on the ground with police officers on top of her,” she said. “Someone had their foot on her back and she was lying face down on the ground — it was very disconcerting to see that coming from University police and the people who are supposed to be protecting us.”
“They acted in the most unnecessary way that I can possibly imagine,” she said.
But DPS Chief Jeff McCracken, talking to media after the arrests, said he was pleased with the way officers handled the incident. He estimated there were 40 officers present, more than is usual for a board meeting.
Kotis said while the board embraces input from the public, violence is not welcome — especially violence against University officers.
“Some of the people who were there were not there for dialogue, they were there to cause a disturbance and get physically violent with the campus police,” he said.
“These are people that did not take the time to talk to us, that have not reached out to us since the December meeting and did not work to establish a dialogue — so the objective didn’t seem to be to have a dialogue or discussion, it seemed to be a publicity stunt.”