By Georgie Hicks
On Sunday May 14 a student called the Evergreen Police on two Black students, after a May 10 post in the “The Evergreen State College Class of 2020” Facebook group sparked intense debate and allegations of racism, leading to an offline confrontation among involved students. The two Black students, Jamil and Timeko, were woken up by the campus police and taken to police services to be questioned and remained there from around 11 p.m. til 2 a.m. on May 14-15.
On Sunday May 14 a student called the Evergreen Police on two Black students, after a May 10 post in the “The Evergreen State College Class of 2020” Facebook group sparked intense debate and allegations of racism, leading to an offline confrontation among involved students. A student ended up calling the Evergreen Police, leading to two Black students, Timeko Williams Jr and Jamil, who prefers we do not use their last name, being woken up by the police and taken to police services to be questioned, where they remained from around 11 p.m. til 2 a.m. on May 14-15.
The students were under the impression they could face negative repercussions if they left or refused to answer questions. Isiah Montejano, a student who went to the police station, stated that “these two Black students were not allowed to leave or use the restroom.” Although they legally had the right to leave, it appears this was not made clear to the students being questioned nor the many witnesses and bystanders.
The Facebook post that sparked the incident was a call by Jamil for People of Color (PoC) to sign up for the Evergreen program “Mediaworks: Re/Presenting Power and Difference” in an attempt to make the class majority “Black/Brown”. One student, Kai-Avé Douvia, took particular issue with the call for PoC in Mediaworks and alleged that it constituted reverse racism, despite the original poster stating that they did not mean white people shouldn’t be permitted to take the class. Douvia made a post in response that repeated Jamil’s words but replaced “PoC” and “black/brown” with “white”. The original post and Douvia’s follow up incited a near constant flow of debate and controversy on the page from May 10-14, with many Students of Color expressing discomfort with how race was being addressed in comments and on campus, and many white students, as well as some PoC, discussing their discomfort at the way in which the grievances of PoC were being aired.
These online conversations culminated in a confrontation in the Greenery Sunday evening involving Douvia and Williams, leading Douvia to call the Evergreen Police, claiming he felt threatened and unsafe. Marissa Parker, a student who witnessed much of the Sunday night incident told the CPJ that Douvia’s claim of harassment was false. Williams himself also refutes the claims that the Greenery confrontation was harassment. The witness to the situation continued by saying that in fact Douvia was harassing Williams, yelling at him from outside of his dorm room prior to the confrontation at the Greenery. They explained, “Timeko [then] goes to the Greenery and he sees Kai-Avé and he’s like you know ‘I want to talk to this dude and see where he’s coming from and see what’s up because… all his friends have been bothering us on the internet and irl.’ He goes up to Kai-Avé and is like ‘Hey what’s up do you plan on stopping disrespecting my friends do you plan to stop doing that’ and Kai-Avé says no.”
Around 6 p.m. on May 14, Douvia and Williams got into an argument, and as one student describes “There is more yelling going on because at this point [Douvia had] called the cops who in turn called [Timeko’s] mom, so he’s allowed to be angry.” The student elaborated on the context of the situation, saying, “Black people are allowed to be angry. You’re harassing them on social media, you’re harassing them in real life.” However, they clarify, “no one came to blows and no was even close [to fighting] but whenever [people] see a tall 6’3-6’4 Black man yelling at someone it’s like, ‘oh there’s gonna be an altercation.’”
Douvia describe the incident and alleged threats made against him saying, “I felt threatened and proceeded to go to the police. I reported the first time about the Facebook messages and the second time about the Greenery confrontation.”
Another student stated, “I don’t think I would even consider [the Greenery confrontation] an incident, as it was not a violent encounter under any circumstances.”
Following the argument in the Greenery, both Williams and Jamil were brought for questioning, and videos circulating on Facebook show that a swarm of students “occupied” the Police Services lobby waiting for their release. Many students present were upset with the handling of the situation by police.
Stacy Brown, Evergreen’s Chief of Police, defended police actions, stating, “Our main goal is to ensure safety for all students—no matter what time of day or night it is.” She asserts that students “came to the police department, without police escort and told us what happened and their part in the matter, voluntarily,” then goes on to say, “We determined no crime was committed by any parties involved in the incident and we have concluded our involvement in this matter.”
Although Jamil and Williams were not escorted by the police, witnesses report that they were escorted from the dorms to Police Services by Residential Director Hanna Smith. Reports also aledge that while being questioned by police, Williams asked to use the bathroom and was denied permission.
On Monday May 15, around 5 p.m. approximately 100 students gathered in the library to respond to a call to action in regards to the the police treatment and holding of the students. Students involved cited the general distrust and dislike for police services, administration, and the general treatment of PoC on campus as reasons for gathering.
The assembled group walked to the Campus Activities Building where a question forum for a candidate for Vice President and Provost of Equity and Inclusion was being held. The candidate said she wanted to hear from students and the meeting became a discussion about racism, anti-Blackness, and discrimination on campus, as well as the previous night’s events.
Douvia, despite recent controversy, attended this gathering, attempting to make a statement about individualism before being asked to leave.
A student who was involved in the earlier online controversy said, “We already knew [Douvia’s] M.O. but we didn’t think that we would expose them [Douvia and his friends] for the racist, sexist group that they are.”
Douvia responded to the anger about the situation and allegations of anti-Black racism, stating, “I, Kai-Avé Douvia, am a person of color who does not support racism or sexism of any sort.”
Another student had this to say, “insistence that you do not support racism does not actually mean that you are not racist or anti-black. Anti-Blackness is an issue even among PoC.”
Douvia claims that this incident comes in the midst of a hostile atmosphere toward some on campus saying, “I have witnessed students cry due to the blatant disrespect given to them because of physical aspects that they can’t change. I have witnessed hate speech towards white students, cis students, straight students, and male students just for being that.”
Others involved feel that this reality of our campus environment is quite blatantly the opposite, that, as one student said in a meeting after the incident, “there is a lot of anti-Blackness here… anti-Blackness is so rampant, it affects every facet of our experience [at Evergreen]”
This story is still unfolding, and some facts remain unclear. We felt it was important to report the information that was available to us, but the incident will be further investigated for a follow up article in the next issue of the CPJ.
This story is still unfolding, but we felt it was important to report the information that was available to us. The incident will be further investigated in the next issue of the CPJ. If you have any information involving the events in question, please send us an email at [firstname.lastname@example.org] with the title of this article as the subject.