YPSILANTI, Mich. ― Student protesters halted a debate at the University of Michigan about whether the Black Lives Matter movement is harmful to race relations.
Protesters voiced their displeasure with the Michigan Political Union’s decision to host the debate Tuesday at the Michigan League, The Ann Arbor News reported. Lawrielle West, a University of Michigan student and protest organizer, said the premise of the debate was disparaging.
“When you say Black Lives Matter is detrimental to race relations in the United States, that’s terrible,” she said. “You cannot trivialize my experience as a Black person and debate it. How can you debate my experience?”
Michigan Political Union President Joshua Strup said he was “aware of the possibility” that students might interrupt the debate and was disappointed that the event turned into more of a spectacle than a dialogue. He noted that the Michigan Political Union is an independent student organization.
“I hope this evening is able to generate conversation moving forward that helps with actual progress,” he said.
The debate featured three participants. About 10 minutes into the event, hundreds of students arrived chanting, “Your life is not up for debate, neither is mine,” ‘”Black lives are not up for debate” and “Black Lives Matter does not hurt race relations, racists hurt race.”
Protesters also expressed frustration about racially charged fliers found Monday on campus, as well as recent racist graffiti at Eastern Michigan University in nearby Ypsilanti. The graffiti included the letters “KKK” and a racial epithet spray-painted on a building and prompted student protesters to take to the field after a football game on Friday.
One of the fliers found at the University of Michigan was titled “Why White Women Shouldn’t Date Black Men” and they have since been removed. After they were found, a letter from the school’s President Mark Schlissel and others condemned the fliers.
“While we continue to defend any individual’s right to free speech on our campus, these types of attacks directed toward any individual or group, based on a belief or characteristic, are inconsistent with the university’s values of respect, civility and equality,” the letter stated.