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Hundreds of protesters converged on a University of Nebraska-Lincoln fraternity house on Tuesday night after reports emerged of an alleged sexual assault at the house.
The crowd organized outside the Phi Gamma Delta house at 1425 R St. at 10 p.m. Tuesday, chanting at the men inside, one of whom allegedly sexually assaulted a UNL student on Monday night.
UNL Police Chief Hassan Ramzah said the alleged assault was under investigation and the department was “looking at a variety of different factors based on what was reported”.
The alleged assault was reported to campus police at 3:47 a.m. Tuesday.
About 18 hours later, a wave of UNL students flooded the R Street block in front of the Nebraska Union and largely remained there for more than two hours, holding signs and shouting protests. chants and swearing as officers from the University Police Department and LPD look on. .
Widely unmasked protesters shamed and made demands of the brotherhood, often in a rhythmic, call-and-response fashion.
“Expel him,” they chanted, referring to the UNL student accused of sexual assault who the crowd later identified by name. The Journal Star is not disclosing his name pending the police investigation.
“Twenty for life,” they chanted.
First gathering on the steps of the UNL Student Union opposite the Delta Phi Gamma, or Fiji House, protesters spilled onto R Street and then consumed the entire block, closing in on the gateway to the brotherhood as the night dragged on.
Police only intervened when some protesters jumped a thigh-high stone wall and stood on the lawn of the fraternity, where UNL officers told protesters they were encroach.
Ramzah said the department’s goal is to ensure students have a safe environment to express their right to protest. A protester came into contact with police after entering the lawn of the fraternity house and tried to take someone’s megaphone, Ramzah said, although the police chief is not sure. whether the man was actually being detained or simply being escorted away from the crowd.
There were tense moments scattered throughout the night as the crowd’s rhetoric escalated with calls for the accused to show his face and for protesters to “burn him”, referring to the fraternity house.
Around 10:30 p.m., a video emerged from inside the house via AirDrop – an Apple sharing feature which, depending on your phone settings, allows you to share images with strangers nearby. In the video, men standing behind the camera watching the crowd from a window appeared to laugh as protesters chanted outside.
Shortly after the video circulated through the crowd, a faction of protesters maneuvered into an alley behind the row of houses on the south side of R Street, but police blocked that effort, prompting some to turn their frustrations on the officers.
“You’re here for the rapist, aren’t you?” one protester, a woman, shouted.
Nearly an hour into the protest, Dominique Liu-Sang — who emerged last summer as an active voice in local protests against racial bias in policing — carried a megaphone and spoke a series of impassioned speeches in front of the crowd.
Liu-Sang led the crowd of hundreds into a moment of silence for the alleged victim that lasted for five minutes – a striking show of solidarity from a crowd that had seemed untamed for more than an hour before the moment.
Within minutes, the 22-year-old called on attendees to email their concerns about both the accused student and the fraternity to UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green.
In 2017, UNL suspended the fraternity, often referred to as Fiji, for “reckless drinking, hazing and inappropriate sexual behavior,” a university spokesperson said at the time. The suspension lasted until 2020.
As the protest approached its second hour, Liu-Sang appeared to call for a reckoning with Greek life as a whole, asking fraternity members of all stripes to step back down R Street, allowing women to s forward, closer to the house where the assault allegedly took place.
“You pay to be safe here,” she told the women, later calling for the accused student’s expulsion.
Apart from a few men peering out the windows, the Phi Gamma Delta house stood still all night.
In a statement released amid the protest, the fraternity said it was “working closely with UNL police” to help investigate the alleged assault.
“As the investigation continues, we stand ready to take immediate and appropriate action to ensure the safety and security of all who are part of or visit the Phi Gamma Delta,” the statement read in part.
By midnight, much of the crowd had dispersed, but a small, engaged group – led by Liu-Sang and a handful of protesters waving signs – regrouped about 10 meters outside the fraternity gate, chanting always.
“She could have died,” they repeated in unison.
As storm clouds rolled in from the northeast, the band continued to sing. And they’ve pledged to come back Wednesday night.