A rally sponsored by UNC Black Student Movement and Black Congress on Thursday to protest the UNC System’s $2.5 million Silent Sam settlement ended in a verbal disagreement between student activists and Police Chief David L. Perry about his interactions with students.
Campus Safety Commission member De’Ivyion Drew said Perry should attend more Campus Safety Commission meetings to better understand student concerns, while Perry said he has made an effort to attend when possible.
“We’re making decisions about your department and the Chapel Hill department, and you are not there,” Drew said.
She also brought up concerns including a lack of officers of color at a recent police forum and the failure of Alert Carolina to notify students about white supremacists on campus.
Students told Perry he should not have approached the group as he did, on his Segway. They said he spoke over student activists after he approached them.
“Your demeanor and your posture says a lot,” one student said. “You are a police officer. You already have a certain status that is scary, that is threatening, that is intimidating.”
Perry said he came over to the group to talk with BSM President Chris Suggs, who spoke earlier in the rally about Perry’s attendance of a BSM event, which Suggs said made him uncomfortable.
During Suggs’ speech, he said that as a young Black male, he gets uncomfortable around police despite having several officers in his family. Suggs said he works closely with his local police to build relationships between community members and officers, and to hold them accountable.
Suggs said last week, Perry came to an event hosted by BSM that was meant to be a safe space for Black males on campus to talk about their issues and experiences. Suggs also said he had not seen Perry interacting with students much at the protest. He said Perry’s role as an administrator and police officer makes it necessary for him to talk to student protesters and make sure they are not uncomfortable. He pointed out Perry to the crowd and asked him to wave.