Pushing Protests: University of Maryland’s History of Activism

By Rebecca Cohen

For Unwind magazine

November 12, 1991

Image courtesy of the Baltimore Sun

Over 2,000 students and staff members joined forces along Route 1 in 1991 to protest budget cuts the University of Maryland had implemented. This activist movement began with 11 English teachers who picketed the administration building for an hour, according to Baltimore Sun article, “2,000 rally to protest cuts at UM: 12 arrested; highway blocked for hours”. Students and teachers inhabited the highway that runs along UMD’s campus, blocking it for public use, for over two hours until the Prince George’s County Police Department intervened. By 3 p.m., 12 people were arrested, but were released from custody that night after hearings at the Prince George’s County District Court. The university president at the time, William E. Kirwan, later said that this made him realize how much the university was affected by budget cuts. He planned to work on turning this around by bringing more money into the university.

November 18, 1999

After an article in Prince George’s Extra incorrectly printed that Juliana Njoku was the first African-American president of the Student Government Association at The University of Maryland, thousands of students joined together to protest bigotry at UMD. This rally was directed to other numerous violent threats directed at black student leaders on campus, according to The Washington Post article, “U-Md. Rejects Message of Hate; Racial Threats Spark College Park Rally.” University officials at the time confirmed that the most heinous of acts included vulgar mailings sent to students of color. They mentioned that prior to this, the students were living and working harmoniously, and that this school was generally known for “peaceful race relations”. Campus police were then assigned to protect these threatened students at all times to ensure safety for all students at UMD.

April 2001

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 2.20.38 PM
Image via BP Blogspot

Following the loss against No. 1 seed Duke University in the 2001 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, University of Maryland officials and Prince George’s County Police department were on the lookout for students responsible for causing campus-wide chaos and riots. These riots included vandalism and fires, which, according to the Washington Post article, “March Madness at College Park,” were considered student riots and not “simply youthful pranks that went too far.” The total cost of damage was $500,000 after the students were finished with their rioting. A 23-year-old junior engineering student was charged with “first-degree and second-degree malicious burning and malicious destruction of property — actions that allegedly caused nearly $325,000 in damages.” The Post described this event as “a sad and terrible postscript to a memorable basketball season.”

December 2, 2005

On the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on the bus, students at the University of Maryland banded together to call for an end to the racial injustice they seen on campus. These protests came right after the police arrested two students at a party that was predominantly filled with African American students, which sparked discussion of racial inequality on the campus. According to The Washington Post article ‘U-Md. Students Protest ‘Racial Tension’; Outside Campus Police Station, an Apology Is Demanded for Incident at Party’, two student protesters were arrested on charges of assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. Students expressed concern in the aggressive way the situation was handled and said police got aggressive by waving nightsticks, spraying pepper spray, and showing their guns. Following the protest, students asked for an apology from the police force and for the university to consider their message. Brandon Dula, assistant director for multicultural involvement at U-Md., called a meeting to discuss racial issues on campus in order to put an end to the inequalities the students were protesting.

January 29, 2017

PG 3 - Womens March 1
The Women’s March drew massive crowds in D.C. on Jan. 21. Photo by Sid Espinosa.

In light of recent events following President Trump’s inauguration, 30 students from the University of Maryland, led by Erica Fuentes, a government and politics major, traveled to Washington D.C. to protest Trump’s executive order stopping refugees from 7 predominantly Muslim countries from entering The United States for 120 days. According to Fuentes, this protest focused on Trump’s immigration ban and his executive order to build a wall along the United States-Mexico border. According to Diamondback article “’A crazy duality of hope and anger’: UMD students join DC protest on Trump immigration ban,” many students at UMD felt strongly against this order that they decided to make the trip to D.C. to fight for their rights and beliefs since UMD was not protesting this on their own campus. For Fuentes, it was crucial to be a part of the community who was refusing Trump’s executive orders. She and her peers responded to a community who wanted to ensure Trump’s orders would not be passed, so they took it upon themselves to be a part of a protest in the heart of it all in Washington D.C.


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