Students dressed mostly in black and wearing strips of purple duct tape—some over their mouths—gathered on the Rabb steps on Monday in a demonstration advocating for survivors of sexual assault.
Between class periods, students traveling to and from Mandel Humanities Quad had to navigate through or around demonstrators whose numbers grew from more than a dozen to just over 40 by the time the demonstration concluded at 2 p.m.
A pamphlet distributed by the demonstrators stated that, “This movement seeks to foreground the lives of those at the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, transmisogyny, ableism and more to combat and speak out against incessant violence and harassment that occurs on college campuses and globally.”
An Instagram post from @DeisBelieve, an account shared on the pamphlet and associated with the demonstration, announced that “We plan to disrupt spaces, interrupt classrooms, until we can envision a national forum grounded on believing and affirming the lives of survivors.”
Signs held by demonstrators linked the demonstration to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and Brandeis itself. One sign invited students to, “Ask how you can support us #standupspeakout.”
The Brandeis Hoot approached several participants for comment. “We’re not actually offering any comment,” said Lucy Pugh-Sellers ’20, who participated in the event for several hours. Other participants declined to comment as well.
Signs with phrases such as “Gender based violence is a tool of genocide, #believeindigenoussurvivors” and “Where are they? Missing and murdered indigenous women” linked the demonstration to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which was recognized at Brandeis on the same day as the demonstration. The pamphlet invited passerbys to attend the teach-in which was taking place at the time of the demonstration and on into the evening.
One sign read “50-48,” referring to a vote in the United States Senate on Saturday, Oct. 6, which confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh faced several accusations of sexual assault in the run-up to his confirmation, sparking a nationwide debate and leading to a public hearing which pitted his word against that of his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Other signs expressed support for Brandeis Professor Anita Hill (HS/WMGS), who testified before Congress in 1991 that then-unconfirmed Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her when she worked for Thomas in 1982. During Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, Hill penned an op-ed for The New York Times stating that “There is no way to redo 1991, but there are ways to do better.” The op-ed concluded, “In 2018, our senators must get it right.”
Kavanaugh joined Thomas and the seven other judges on the bench of the Supreme Court after being sworn in Saturday night.
“If we can’t see a problem, we can’t fix a problem,” read another sign, quoting Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate and leading scholar in critical race theory. The quote was taken from her TEDWomen Talk, “The urgency of intersectionality.”
The day before the demonstration, a Google form circulated around parts of the Brandeis community, inviting individuals to stand in solidarity at the event. “We are standing in solidarity with Professor Anita Hill, Professor Christine Ford, and other marginalized bodies within the broader community,” stated the description on the Google form.
The pamphlet distributed by demonstrators at the protest noted Twitter and Instagram accounts using the name @DeisBelieve had been established for use by demonstrators moving forward. The Instagram and Twitter accounts showed pictures of signage used at the demonstration.
It also urged students to wear the purple tape that “allies” were handing out and share with peers why they choose to wear them, as well as raising awareness about different campus resources, such as the Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center (PARC).
The group’s use of the tag #BrandeisBelieveSurvivors on social media and on signs was a “radical demand to our faculty of students, administration and staff to address the dearth of dialogues surrounding the political climate and sexual assault cases,” as stated in their pamphlet.
When reporters attempted to take pictures of demonstrators, some participants shouted that they did not “consent” to having their picture taken or would move their signs in front of their faces.
Pugh-Sellers told The Hoot that “They’re [the demonstrators] putting themselves in a vulnerable place,” in justification for requesting reporters not take photos.
A post on the @DeisBelieve Instagram account Tuesday displayed a letter from “The organization of BrandeisBelieveSurvivors” which explained the group’s intentions with the demonstration and their plans to demonstrate throughout October. “The university has perpetuated silence in allyship during this political climate around the issue of sexual violence,” the post stated. The post invited other universities to use a hashtag with the format “#(YourUniversity)BelieveSurvivors” to “bring further awareness” and spread the movement to other campuses.