Duke Students Hold Rally; President Meets With Black Leaders
Posted March 30, 2006 5:09 a.m. EST
DURHAM, N.C. — Duke students held a rally late Thursday morning in response to what they say is "stalling" in the case of rape allegations involving school lacrosse players.
The demonstration, which was the sixth by students in five days, was in front of the Allen Building on the West Campus at Duke. The gathering drew about 50 people.
The group that planned the rally said that they "are not prejudging the outcome of the criminal case, but we demand measures be put in place to ensure that we never see this again."
The rally came the same day that Duke University President Richard Brodhead met with various leaders of Durham's black community, including Mayor Bill Bell. Allegations of racism have emerged in the investigation of lacrosse players after a 911 tape surfaced in which people near the house the night of alleged rape said racial epithets were yelled at them.
The meeting was closed to the media, but Bell and North Carolina Central University President James H. Ammons spoke about the situation afterward.
"There is broad-based support in this community for these two institutions, but at the same time, there is a strong and firm stance against racial hatred," said Ammons, who is the leader of the school where the alleged victim attended.
Bell expressed concern at the racial angle of the incident.
"Durham prides it self on its diversity," Bell said. "So, when you see something like that come up, it obviously concerns you."
On Wednesday, Brodhead met with students who feel his suspension of the lacrosse team from play during a rape investigation was not enough, urging them to be patient while police look into the matter.
"I don't want to say I'm satisfied, but I will say that what happened in there makes me feel like we're moving in a good direction," sophomore Bridgette Howard said after the roughly hourlong session.
Brodhead suspended the highly ranked team from play until the university learns more about accusations that team members attacked an exotic dancer hired to perform at an off-campus party.
The alleged victim told police she was pulled into a bathroom, beaten, choked and raped by three men at a March 13 party, where she and another dancer were hired to perform.
Police collected DNA samples with a cheek swab from 46 members of the lacrosse team last week; the 47th player, the only black member, wasn't tested because the victim said her attackers were white.
No one has been charged, and the team's captains have said the tests will clear players.
Three players who live at the house where the party took place spoke with investigators and voluntarily provided samples March 16, authorities said. A scheduled meeting between detectives and the rest of the team was later canceled by the players' attorney, and District Attorney Mike Nifong said Wednesday the players still refuse to speak with investigators.
News of the attack has sparked days of protest at Duke and in Durham, culminating Tuesday in Brodhead's decision to suspend the team. He stressed the suspension was not a punishment, but a response to the inappropriate nature of playing while the investigation is ongoing.
Those comments led about 100 students to approach Brodhead after Tuesday night's announcement and demand his administration deliver a stronger response.
"We understand that the legal system is that you are innocent until proven guilty," said sophomore Kristin High. "But people are nervous and afraid that these people are going to get away with what they did because of a wealthy privilege, or male privilege, or a white privilege."
Their protests led to Wednesday's meeting inside the campus' black cultural center, where participants said Brodhead urged patience as police continue to investigate.
Graduate student Michelle Christian complained Duke is continuing to downplay the alleged attack.
Later in the day, sophomore Jeff Shaw wore a Duke lacrosse T-shirt on campus in support of his friends on the team.
"Even if it's true, it's three guys and unfortunately, this is going to be a label the team is going to carry," Shaw said.
At an annual campus rally against sexual violence previously planned for Wednesday night, about 300 people wearing purple and white ribbons marched across Duke's campus. Protesters handed out flyers to marchers bearing the photos and names of the lacrosse team, and taped them onto garbage cans in front of the student union.
"Rape is not sex. Rape is violence," Geoff Lorenz, 22, a senior from California, told the crowd. "May our sea of purple and white demand a change on this campus."
Also Wednesday, Brodhead apologized for language used by those at the party. A woman calling 911 on the night of the party told police that men outside of the house called out to her and another woman using a racial slur.
"It's disgusting," Brodhead said in a statement. "Racism and its hateful language have no place in this community."