Since the fatal shooting of Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng, students and staff at the University of Chicago have responded with calls for action—including a rally and a letter signed by more than 300 faculty members, many of whom were Asian.
A proposed plan would increase police presence and install more surveillance throughout the Hyde Park campus on the south side.
On Monday, University of Chicago students and community groups came together to protest these decisions. The united collective said that adding more policing in Hyde Park is not the answer to a systemic problem, WBEZ Chicago reports. Instead, the group called for long-term solutions to gun violence on campus and in surrounding areas.
Three days after Zheng was killed, the Chicago Police Department announced that Alton Spann, an 18-year-old Black man, had been apprehended and charged with Zheng’s killing. The update was quickly followed by a rise in anti-Black sentiment on campus, which vilified Black students and residents in the neighboring communities.
Social media has also been a particularly virulent breeding ground for hateful comments. Keegan Ballantyne, a second-year undergraduate and member of the Organization of Black Students, told WBEZ Chicago that comments have ranged from calling for U of C’s campus to gentrify and become more like that of Northwestern University in north suburban Evanston, to asking “if it’s OK … to just fear all Black men walking around in the Hyde Park community.”
“Hyde Park is already one of the most policed neighborhoods in Chicago,” said Grace Pai, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago. “We all want to live, work and study in communities that feel safe.”
She said public safety needs to be addressed, “but that is public safety for all communities. Black communities have borne the brunt of gun violence and disinvestment for decades. We can learn from what those communities are telling us about what would make them feel safe.”
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