'Blue Lives Matter' Display Honoring Natl Police Week Vandalized at Dartmouth

"You cannot co-opt the movement against state violence to memorialize its perpetrators. #blacklivesmatter.”

Dartmouth College Republicans decorated a campus bulletin board to honor police officers for National Police Week, but in less than 24 hours, the tributes were torn down and replaced with #BlackLivesMatter flyers.

According to The Dartmouth Review, the Republican group went through the proper channels and gained official permission to use one of the student center's boards for their "Blue Lives Matter" display. It went up last Thursday evening around 10 o'clock and by 11:00 a.m. on Friday morning, the signs were torn down and replaced with signs that read:

You cannot co-opt the movement against state violence to memorialize its perpetrators. #blacklivesmatter.

Other defacers were summoned through social media to fill the boards with more BLM signs. A number of students were placed on guard for hours to keep watch over the bulletin board to prevent any attempts to tear down their messages or have them replaced with the pro-police messages. 

A picture of the college Republicans standing with then-hopeful presidential candidate Donald Trump was also added to the bulletin board with "The Sons of Old Dartmouth" and other captions scrawled over the top. The group had taken pictures with other GOP candidates but stated that posing with a candidate did not indicate an endorsement. Some of the students in the photos became concerned about privacy.

The college Republicans took the matter to the administration who offered no immediate action in giving them back the board they had rightfully reserved. This is in contrast with an incident in the fall when a BLM display was defaced and the administration quickly condemned that assault on free speech. This time around, though, the leadership seemed more concerned with safety and security and refused to act as swiftly. They did urge the BLM protesters to remove their signs but the request was refused and administrators didn't push back. They simply told the college Republicans to wait for the overnight maintenance crew to remove the signs. 

But sticking to their principles, the group wanted the permitted use of the board back as soon as possible. However, because BLM occupiers were still standing guard, administrators told them to wait before taking action until after the student center closed.

Another instance of hypocrisy on behalf of the school was detailed in the report:

Furthermore, the College Republicans discovered that the Black Lives Matter protesters, upon seeing the Blue Lives Matter display the night before, applied for and were granted permission to use the bulletin board nearby. While the College Republicans were required to undergo a long bureaucratic process, the Black Lives Matter group was given expedited approval, once again exposing a clear double standard.

The campus BLM movement issued this statement via e-mail over the weekend:

This campus is toxic… F*** your comfort, there is no such thing as neutral existence. Sitting in the library with your headphones in, intensifies this violence against people of color, muting the voices of the movement, the cries of your peers, and the history of inequality. Posting Blue Lives Matter reproduces the idea that All lives matter, again intensifying the violence against people of color. Invalidating individual realities.

We occupy this space, in front of the bulletin board, to guarantee our presence at this institution. Reposting Blue Lives Matter reproduces this violent narrative against people of color, by silencing us. We will not be silenced.

College Republicans confronted administration in their own e-mail condemning them for "standing idly by" instead of defending their right to free speech as it had done for the BLM movement. It took two days for a response, but President Phil Hanlon finally relented on Sunday in an e-mail: 

Freedom of expression is a fundamental value of the Dartmouth community. By its very nature, the exercise of free speech will include views with which some of us disagree or which we find hurtful.

The unauthorized removal on Friday of a student display for National Police Week in the Collis Center was an unacceptable violation of freedom of expression on our campus. Vandalism represents a silencing of free exchange, rather than open engagement.  This was true of the vandalism of the Black Lives Matter display last November, and equally true of Friday‘s action. Any students identified as being involved in such actions will be subject to our disciplinary process.

By Sunday evening, the "Blue Lives Matter" display was back on the bulletin board.

To view a complete timeline with pictures of the scene, click here.