All six of the officers shown aggressively restraining 23-year-old senior Columbia University student, Alexander McNab, in a now-viral clip, are on leave, university officials report.
For context: Columbia students have access to Barnard libraries. After 11 p.m., students are supposed to show their IDs to public safety before entering campus. But this rule is loosely enforced and hardly followed. I have always just nodded to the officer. Nothing like this. pic.twitter.com/ihStqSAovA
— Andrew Wang (@andrwwang) April 12, 2019
The April 11 incident was conveniently captured by bystanders and shows campus security officers pinning down McNab as part of an earlier altercation over whether or not he was allowed to be there.
According to McNab, who happens to be Black, he declined to show his Columbia ID because of how rarely the rule is enforced.
The Washington Post reported that Alexander found himself at the Barnard College campus after hearing there was free late-night food at a university library. It wasn’t until Barnard College Public Safety demanded to see Alexander’s student ID that events escalated to him getting pinned to a countertop.
Additionally, the Post interviewed Caroline Cutlip, the woman that caught the moment on camera. She admitted the officers tried to command him to come outside when they saw her filming.
“The moment I saw him pinned back on the table, it was so reminiscent of police brutality things I’ve seen online,” said Cutlip.
She later added she thought to herself, “I need to say something. I feel like I am someone who can use my privilege to say something here.” Furthermore, Cutlip said she started filming because she “had no clue what to say.”
In an interview with the campus paper, the Spectator, McNab said he was aware of the rule, but expressed his frustration with the policy’s inconsistencies. He had noticed that white students were often not asked.
McNab can be heard saying repeatedly in the video while the officers hold him down,
“I didn’t violate anybody; get your hands off of me…”
“Let’s walk outside,” one officer said in response. McNab clarified with Spectator that he wanted to stay inside the building so that witnesses would be able to see and corroborate what unfolded.
What’s unfortunate about situations like these?
It is unfortunate because it still happens in 2019, that it echoes the sentiments Black Lives Matter have been preaching for years, or that it gets ignored by our Commander in Chief.
It is unfortunate because it happened to a student on campus doing what he’s supposed to be doing. If this level of disrespect and discrimination can happen there, how is one supposed to be safe anywhere?
The officers claim they followed McNab because he ran past a Public Safety van and through Barnard gates without showing his ID to the officer, but both McNab and multiple witnesses at the scene corroborated that he was walking at a normal pace when officers began to follow him.
Administrators from Barnard held a listening session to give students a chance to sound off on the incident after the video went viral on Friday.
Afterward, Barnard president Sian Leah Beilock said in a statement,
“We deeply regret that this incident occurred, and we are undertaking a thorough review of our public safety officers’ actions, and will address our processes and procedures and how they are applied.”
The real one who’s life doesn’t get to go back to normal is McNab, who now has trauma to go alongside the school work he needs to complete before graduation.