“Can I go punch her?” 

The unidentified law enforcement officer was massed with dozens of other cops inside Graham Memorial Hall on August 31, 2018, as a protest raged outside over the recently toppled Confederate monument Silent Sam. 

His words, captured on body-cam footage posted to Facebook on Wednesday by Carolina Workers Collective, came in response to a woman calling either the police or pro-Confederate demonstrators “fucking cowards.”

In the ensuing confrontation, three antiracist protesters were arrested, and the police deployed a lot of pepper spray. Two of the three were arrested were later found not guilty; the third accepted deferred prosecution. 

At other points in the video, an officer refers to an Asian student as “an Oriental” and mocked their name, while another officer says protesters with the neo-Confederate outfit ACTBAC were “polite and cordial” during a Greensboro rally earlier that day, but he had problems with “the other assholes. The antifa.”

Outside agencies, including sheriff’s deputies from the Triad, were brought in to help UNC Police manage the crowd.

On Tuesday, interim chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz released the findings of an assessment of four instances of police interactions with protestors during the Silent Sam demonstrations. The investigation found that “the motivations of officers involved were not improper.”

However, antiracist activists say that—beyond their disagreement with the report’s conclusion—the findings were also full of factual errors.

On Twitter, education policy student James Sadler listed what he describes as a number of inaccuracies in the report, which was curated by former FBI assistant director Chris Swecker. These inaccuracies, according to Sadler and other antifa activists, ranged from incorrect names of counter-protesters to the handling of false testimony by UNC Police Sergeant Svetlana Bostelman, which Swecker’s report admits was “inaccurate.”

I’m not sure where to start with this horrible report from @UNC, but worth noting that the author of the “independent, external review” is the same guy that led the commission last fall that wanted Sam back on campus in a place indoors with limited ability to protest it. https://t.co/lyjFg97qPR pic.twitter.com/F1KU1RbO8p

— James Sadler (@sadlerja) November 5, 2019

The four police interactions analyzed in the UNC report do not include the August 31, 2018, protest captured in the body-cam footage released by Carolina Workers Collective.

Lindsay Ayling, a PhD student and prominent face in the Silent Sam protests, called the video “damning” on Twitter.

“A little over a week later, on September 8, 2018, they actually did end up deploying the entire force out of Graham Memorial Hall, detonated smoke bombs, and just started shoving the crowd backward and yelling for it to move, and they pushed us entirely off of our campus,” Ayling told the INDY. “So we can tell from the video that was released that the desire to take that brutal action, to physically and forcibly remove antiracist students from our own campus, came out of an ideological opposition to antiracism on the part of the police.”

The UNC Police Department declined to comment on the footage. However, UNC Police Chief David Perry said in a statement that the police force had already “made progress with many of the recommendations in the report. … The report clearly states that our police department is dedicated to the safety and security of our campus community but also identified ‘breakdowns in police procedures and practices’ that we are addressing.” 

De’Ivyion Drew, a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill and a member of the UNC Campus Safety Commission—a new organization designed to facilitate discussions between the campus community and UNC Police—says that she’s never felt safe on campus, and the footage only reinforced that feeling.

“I never felt safe, but watching the videos affirms my sentiment of not feeling safe as a fact and not an opinion,” Drew says. “And now I believe that when students, particularly white students, watch these videos of the police mocking other students of other ethnicities, then they cannot deny that either.”

According to Drew, Campus Safety Commission co-chairman (and noted death penalty scholar) Frank Baumgartner said that the committee would not use the report as a basis for its decisions. Drew says Baumgartner attended a protest of the report on Wednesday. 

“I know that the author of that report must have had access to the same thirty-five minutes of body-cam footage that I saw, plus much more,” Ayling says.

She says that the instances of bias and officers saying they wished to do harm to antiracist students captured in the footage are likely just the tip of the iceberg. 

“What must the police say in any of the other videos,” she asks, “or on their own time?”

You can read the full Swecker report here.

Contact digital content manager Sara Pequeño at spequeno@indyweek.com.

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