Black Lives Matter activists at the University of Las Vegas are demanding an apology from North Las Vegas Police after what they saw an act of intimidation by officers during an on-campus event earlier this week.
Students said seven NLVPD officers rode their motorcycles onto the UNLV campus Tuesday, Nov. 28, and circled a pedestrian-only area where they and the university’s NAACP chapter were hosting poetry night. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the officers arrived just as the event was ending, as students danced and were helping clean up.
During a press conference Thursday, members of the student group laid out their demands, requesting a meeting and formal apology from the department. UNLV president Len Jessup also demanded an apology from NLVPD on Wednesday.
“Where can we convene, and where are we safe?” said Vera Anderson, a UNLV student who performed at the spoken word event. “The cops always tell us they’re just doing their jobs, but we know that they’re not doing a good job when they use scare tactics and then call it training.”
Aaron Patty, a spokesman for North Las Vegas Police, said the whole thing was just a big misunderstanding and that the officers were there for a training exercise. Patty said that the officers were using the space to practice navigating tight turns and difficult terrain, as other jurisdictions have done in the past. He insisted the NLVPD was unaware that a BLM event was taking place that night.
“Last night, we had no intention to, we had no mal-intent as far as going down there and attempting to stir the pot in any way or intimidate any folks,” Patty said.
Javon Johnson, the director of African American studies at UNLV and faculty adviser for the school’s BLM chapter, pointed to the current political climate, however, and argued that the police presence cannot be brushed off as a “simple coincidence.”
Meanwhile, Anderson said she understood the officers needed to train but thinks they could’ve done so in a way that wasn’t so jolting to her and fellow students.
“They know Black and brown people are afraid of them or think they might get hurt,” she told local station KSNV. “So maybe when they saw all those Black people, they could have stopped and said, ‘Hey we’re just doing some training.’ Instead, they said nothing.”
So far, there’s no word on whether NLVPD plans to apologize to the university and its students.
UNLV issued the following statement on Thursday:
“We continue to have a dialogue with the North Las Vegas Police Department. UNLV has a written memorandum of understanding with the Metropolitan Police Department and is in the midst of developing one with the Henderson Police Department. It is common practice for police agencies to notify other organizations when coming on their property and respect ongoing events.”