Campus Officers Suspended after Video Shows Them Pinning Down Black Student

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Six campus public safety officers have been suspended after a viral video surfaced of them pinning down a Black Columbia University student in a library coffee shop, according to a statement from Barnard College president Sian Beilock.

The encounter happened earlier this month at Barnard College, a branch of New York City’s Columbia University. Alexander McNab, 23, is a senior at Columbia University and the student identified in the video. McNab wanted to retrieve free campus food before officers allegedly bombarded him, asking him for his student ID, according to the Washington Post.

“Take your hands off of me. Take your body off of me,” McNab can be heard saying in the viral clip. “Why are you touching me? I didn’t violate anybody.”

Officers claimed McNab was running into the building, to which McNab said, “No one saw me running.” Other students in the video agreed McNab was seen walking.

Another officer claimed McNab crossed the street in front of a vehicle. “I was running to catch the light, sir. That’s not the same thing.” McNab said.

In the video, the officers confiscated McNab’s student ID in order to verify if he was a student.

After 11 p.m., it is campus policy for security to ask for student identification, according to the Washington Post.

“Learning while Black” is one of the greatest dangers college students of color face while earning a degree. Numerous viral videos have surfaced in recent months showing students and people of color unjustly having authorities called on them for doing ordinary things.

Last May, a Yale student called the police because a Black student was sleeping in the dorm common room. In November, a White Texas professor called the police on a Black student because she didn’t like the way the student was sitting and just last week, Chicago police officers were shown on a high school surveillance video pushing and dragging a student down a staircase.

“What transpired was unacceptable and antithetical to our mission,” read the Barnard College statement. The college held a community forum with representatives from Public Safety, the Deans of the College, Furman Counseling, and the Office of Equity in response to the incident.

Mariah Stewart is a staff writer for INSIGHT Into Diversity.