Critics Don’t Buy Ryan’s Tent-Takedown Rationale

by James A. Bacon

From professors to Lawn residents, members of the University of Virginia community continue to criticize President Jim Ryan and senior UVA leadership for their decision Saturday to shut down the UVA Encampment for Gaza “liberated zone.” While Ryan’s defense of his decision during a virtual “town hall” meeting Tuesday won praise in some quarters, such as online UVA-parent fora, many students and faculty members continued to condemn the action.

“We have nothing but contempt for the state, city and county police…” stated a poster on the door of a Lawn resident. “To call these officers of the law pigs is perhaps too mild.” Another sign captured in photos published on blog of the local talk-radio Schilling Show expressed “bitter opposition” to “the war and totalitarianism in the nation.”

In its coverage of the town hall, The Daily Progress called into question details in the narrative of events detailed by Ryan and University Police Department Chief Tim Longo and described the “town hall” as more akin to a press conference than a genuine give-and-take.

Wrote the Charlottesville newspaper:

The virtual meeting was meant to “provide an update and answer questions about Saturday’s protest near the UVA Chapel that led police to declare an unlawful assembly and arrest demonstrators who didn’t leave.” Many left with their questions still unanswered.

That was because the university curated all of the questions it would answer beforehand. Participants were allowed to register to submit questions, but were not told how the university would determine which queries to pose. None of the questions submitted by The Daily Progress were asked or answered Tuesday.

The Daily Progress also quoted Robert Redick, a Charlottesville resident who visited the encampment, as saying that there was genuine confusion among the protesters over their right to put up tents. “People were saying very sincerely, ‘We actually are allowed to put up small individual tents, but we’re choosing not to do so. So when they [meaning Ryan and Longo] say there was no confusion about this, I think that’s just not true.”

(The newspaper describes Redick as “a Charlottesville native, author and fourth-generation UVa graduate.” But he was hardly a dispassionate observer. As his personal website says, “Racism endures in my beloved city and I condemn it absolutely. I have fought it all my life.  … Like Virginia itself, Charlottesville is a place of contradictions. Its history is indefensible; so are aspects of its current politics. And yet the ideals that propelled me into social justice work and a life that put art and conscience over wealth and comfort were incubated there.”)

The Daily Progress also quoted Professor Walt Heinecke, one of the faculty members who served as a liaison between the protesters and UVa administration, as disputing Ryan’s narrative.

“When the police came up on protesters, they stood there with umbrellas out and police started getting aggressive: shoving, pushing, g[r]abbing,” he said. “I was ten feet from state police as they brutalized protesters and students. I saw people thrown to the ground and roughed up and pepper-sprayed.”

Similarly, The Washington Post quoted Laura Goldblatt, an assistant English professor who acted as an intermediary: “What we saw on Saturday was brutal.”

Perhaps the most damning criticism could be found on a “Letter of Protest and Condemnation,” appended to a sign on one of the Lawn room doors.

The letter, purported to be written by “we, the residents of the Lawn,” condemned the arrest of students who “civilly resisted the police on May 4th” and demanded that the administration “halt the sanctioning of our peers” and allow them to return to Grounds “without the threat of punishment.”

“Many of us were trapped in our rooms as the police blockaded alleyways, leading to increased distress among residents of the Academical Village,” the statement continued. “We could hear the cries of our peers as they were sprayed with chemical irritants and dragged into the alleys to be arrested. Police denied us the ability to help our peers, which caused anxiety among some residents.  Many were also forced to spend the night elsewhere to escape the panic and claustrophobia of the day.”

Update: UVA Encampment for Gaza has published on its Instagram page a letter from Ashon Crowley, a professor of religious studies, resigning from the Strategic Research Planning Committee. Portraying the encampment as a place where peaceful dancing, chanting, studying and sleeping occurred, he argued that the erection of tents “posed no threat” to anyone. Police in riot gear, rubber bullets, tear gas, and guns, he said, “did not make anyone safer.”

Update: Rob Schilling has posted more photos of signs on Lawn doors.

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walter smith
walter smith
9 days ago

Those poor Lawnies…. I wonder how the Israeli families on the terrorist, barbaric day of October 7 felt in their kibbutzes as barbarians killed, raped, maimed, microwaved babies, murdered parents in front of the children…
Oh the horror in the Academical Village!
You were breaking the law on behalf of Hamas. Marxist performance art. Have you ever noticed that when crazy Leftists show up at UVA, there is never a whiff of violence from the Right? That the air of violence is always from the Left? What was permitted for the Abigail Shrier speech was atrocious. I would bet there was a substantial overlap of the outsiders and students at the Shrier event and those who were recently arrested.

Meanwhile, Professor Heinecke’s description on the UVA website –
Walter Heinecke teaches courses in qualitative research methods, methods of program evaluation, and educational policy studies as well as undergraduate courses on civic engagement and activism. He conducts research on technology, reform, and policy implementation in teacher education and K-12 settings as well as on citizenship and civic engagement in higher educational settings.

And he went to Berkeley undergrad!

Laura Goldblatt has been praised on the TJC blog for a course she taught in March 2021. It was one of Ian Baucom’s indoctrinating new curriculum courses, but not as bad as most. (They were 1 hour courses called Pathways or something like that and most dealt with race as I recall).

In UVA’s response to the Dept of Ed over anti-Semitism, UVA hides behind non-enforcement of the mask law because the Commonwealth’s Attorney won’t enforce it. That is cowardice and evasion. The UVA Codes REQUIRE compliance with all laws. (There is an unwritten exception for favored Leftist causes like illegal immigration and rioting, but the actual written words say what they say). The mask laws were used to break up the Klan. If you are wearing a mask to hide your identity, are you doing good? Quit lying. Quit hiding. Quit favoring your pet activists. ENFORCE THE ANTI-KLAN MASK LAW!!!!!

9 days ago

Excellent analysis, Jim.

The Administration, University Police, and VA State Police did the right thing. They dispersed the encampment protestors who disobeyed direct orders to leave since they were in direct violation of University regulations and state law.

The professors’ characterization of the demonstration as peaceful, with singing and hand holding, is simply not true. I have seen numerous videos of the protestors resisting arrest and threatening University Police. UPD Chief Longo is a man of his word. I believe him not the radical students and faculty who clearly have a politically motivated agenda.

UVA could have replicated the violent riots at Columbia, GWU, UCLA and elsewhere. That didn’t happen since Chief Longo interceded and called in the VA state police. Thank God he did.