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OSU Student Beaten by Police

An incident of police brutality near the Ohio State University campus is helping to galvanize anti-racist activists.
 
 
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Photo Credit: aceshot1 | Shutterstock.com

 

On October 22nd, the Ohio State University (OSU) community was outraged by the news that Joseph Hines, an African American student, had been viciously assaulted by Columbus police.

As images and a video circulated around the web, we received a second shock: This incident of police brutality had occurred almost two months before--but there was not a word about it, either among students or the local media.http://www.alternet.org/node/add/story

But you can't find a word on the website about the fact that Hines was the victim of police brutality. Or what appears equally obvious to many on campus: that Hines was yet another victim of racism.

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The brutal attack by police on Joseph Hines is the latest and most gruesome event in a virtual epidemic of racially charged incidents at OSU over the last few months.

On April 4, the Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center was the target of racist vandalism when the words "Long Live Zimmerman" were spray-painted on the wall. The slogan referred to George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida on February 26.

Significantly, the spray-painting occurred on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination--and on the night of a solidarity event called "Hoodies and Headscarves," in which Black, Muslim and other students gathered together to mourn the death of Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old Iraqi-American murdered in El Cajon, Calif., in an apparent hate crime on March 21.

As SocialistWorker.org reported in April, vandalism at the Hale Center provoked a mass response from the Ohio State community, especially from African American undergraduate and graduate students. Along with sympathetic faculty and staff, we formed a group called OSU Stand Your Ground (SYG)--turning inside out the name of the gun laws protecting Zimmerman and asserting that we will not back down from racist hate.

Hundreds of us marched to the Board of Trustees meeting to make demands--including calls for hate crime alerts, increased diversity among faculty and students, and an intensified plan for diversity in the curriculum--and we carried out an indefinite sit-in at the Student Union until the first demand was met.

As a result, the university formed OSU President Gordon Gee's No Place for Hate Task Force. The results of this Task Force have been predictably poor to date, producing little more than lukewarm recommendations while giving Gee PR about standing up to hate.

In May, racism and prejudice against Asian and Asian-American students at Ohio State came to light, as activists discovered anti-Asian twitter accounts linked to OSU with over 1,600 followers. In late August and September, the anti-racist group called OSU Haters created a tumblr page documenting these tweets--which have been ongoing, despite anti-racist organizing and coverage in the local media.

And just this past Wednesday, the campus newspaper The Lantern ran an ad from the group "Facts and Logic About the Middle East" that categorized Muslims and Iranians as "crazies" who have a "death wish for Israel. Apparently, racism at OSU is a daily thing.

While these incidents are both big and small, together they create a threatening environment for people of color at OSU. They tell us we are not wanted here.

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The anti-racist and anti-hate forces that OSU activists have mobilized over the past several months urgently need to come together again to demand answers from OSU President Gordan Gee, Mayor Michael Coleman and the Columbus police about the assault on Joseph Hines.

As campus activist Martez Smith told me, "People simply need to be aware that incidents like this are happening, and can happen, to any student on this campus. This wasn't a Columbus 'hoodlum,' this was a student at the Ohio State University."

The struggle is happening at a key moment for campus anti-racist activism on campus. This year, various groups inside and outside SYG--including the Asian American Association, South Asian Students Association, International Socialist Organization, ex-Occupy Ohio Staters, Asian American Studies, Committee for Justice in Palestine, Diversity and Identity Studies Collective Graduate Caucus, Ohio Students Association and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS)--have worked together to connect the dots between different instances of racism and hate.

In September, hundreds of students gathered at a town hall meeting and then at a panel discussion called "Racism and Violence After 9/11." We discussed the OSU anti-Asian tweets, the Oak Creek shootings at the Sikh Temple in August, the long legacy of violence against Asians in the U.S., Islamophobia in a time of war, and hate crimes against the LGBTQ community.

Weekly SYG speak-outs against racism, hate and discrimination have been organized to create "safe spaces" for students to come together on campus to talk through what they have experienced. A petition and protest against a new $1,000 fee for international students is also in the works.

Across the U.S., the killing of Trayvon Martin, rising Islamophoba, anti-Obama racism, the legalizing of racist profiling in Arizona and the deportations of immigrants, and ongoing instances of police brutality--all of this and more has set the stage for racist attacks in the U.S.

Locally, OSU continues to pursue policies that negatively impact people of color, in Columbus and globally. Plans are underway for OSU and its partner, the city of Columbus, to "develop" Near East Side--an action protested by many in the historically Black neighborhood. And OSU is ignoring student protests, spearheaded by United Students Against Sweatshops, and forging ahead with plans to sign a monopoly apparel deal with Silver Star Merchandising--which ESPN itself exposed as a sweatshop-using company.

OSU won't become "No Place for Hate" just because President Gee decrees it. We're going to have to make it no place for hate by defending the victims of racism, mobilizing all the forces we can, and transforming the curriculum, the student body and the faculty. We can start by mobilizing to bring pressure to bear on the university and the Columbus police and demanding justice for Joseph Hines.

Hines was beaten and then arrested by police on August 29, 2012, at 11:45 p.m., just off campus, across from the Student Union.

According to a video on "OSU police beating," a Facebook page started up by Hines' supporters, Hines was "pepper-sprayed, hog-tied, and beaten unconscious" by a gang of police officers, causing him nerve damage in his left hand (he is left-handed), a concussion, and various lacerations and cuts all over his body and face. A picture reportedly taken days after the beating shows Hines with his left eye swollen shut.

Although details remain sparse for legal reasons, one of the things that has outraged activists and supporters was that police didn't even feel they needed to give a reason or explanation for their actions.

Although a "Code 10-3" had been called--signaling that an officer was in trouble--Hines was, in fact, never charged with assaulting the cops. Instead, according to the Franklin Country Municipal Court website, he was charged for multiple counts of littering, resisting arrest and obstruction of justice, and some counts related to alcohol possession.

Pranav Jani is an Assistant Professor of English at the Ohio State University.