At 7 p.m. tonight, anti-racism author Tim Wise will speak in Dana Auditorium. There is a possibility of protests at this event, and some protesters may be affiliated with the white supremacy movement, said Dean of Students John Downey.
Only one group has notified the administration of their protest plans. That organization, the Traditionalist Youth Network, is not a white supremacy group, Downey said, adding that they plan on protesting peacefully. According to a member’s email to the administration, some protesters may come into the actual event and “respectfully” ask Tim Wise questions during the question and answer portion of his speech.
“If anybody’s going to come, this is the group I’d want to come,” Downey said.
But the administration is also monitoring several other groups’ online activity, including the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacy group. The CCC plans on asking students whether they have been required to attend this event and wants to place a list online of all professors who made attendance necessary, according to a post on its website.
The administration does not consider this plan to be a threat, Downey said.
“I think it’ll be similar to these professor websites that [say] ‘you shouldn’t take this professor’s class,” said Zack Thomas, director of inclusion and diversity.
Students will have to walk by the protest areas in order to get into the building, Downey said.
Students who are uncomfortable should “just keep walking,” Downey said.
“There is a finite amount of space where they will be, and you can come in quickly and get right in there,” Downey said.
Administrators are not expecting harassment from any of the organizations, Downey said.
There will be a space for counter-protesters on one side of Dana about ten feet from the protesters, Downey said.
“If there is a counter protest, and you feel strong about what they’re protesting,”Downey said, “then be a part of the counter-protesting,”
If there is any disruption during the protests, students should listen to police—both Queens and CMPD—who will be stationed in the protest area, said Downey and Queens Police Chief Mac Cable.
This event—and the protests surrounding it—will be a teaching moment for Queens students, Thomas said.
Several student organizations have already reached out about how they can get involved, and many campus minority organizations plan on coming to the event as well, Thomas said.
“I think this a great opportunity to see how they can engage in the new civil rights of their time,” Thomas said.
Queens has dealt with other protests in recent years, including when Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spoke at an event, said Cable. Everything went smoothly at each of those events, and he expects this event to go just as well, Cable said.
Queens did not have to let the protesters on campus but did decide to let them come, Downey said.
Queens does not have control over the streets and some sidewalks surrounding campus, Downey said. So, even if Queens had not allowed them on campus, these groups could still protest around campus, he said.
This also allows the police to be more in control of the situation, Cable said.
It’s “not keeping your enemies close but keeping your people that may cause trouble close to you,” Cable said.
But the big reason is that protesting and counter-protesting are part of the American culture, Downey said.
“It’s just a good opportunity for people to experience the American tradition that this is,” Downey said. “In a lot of countries, you’re just not allowed to voice your opinion.”