It doesn’t snow much in Las Vegas, but snowflakes have shown up at UNLV.
On Tuesday night, student groups, including Black Lives Matter UNLV, held a poetry competition outside the union. Sometime after the event concluded, seven North Las Vegas motorcycle officers rode through a nearby area. Black Lives Matter UNLV assumed the cops were trying to threaten them and posted a breathless comment on Facebook.
“The police officers swarmed like sharks in the parking lot behind the SU (student union) Courtyard and then entered the SU Courtyard where motor vehicles are usually not allowed,” reads the post. “We stared at them while they stared at us. In an attempt to intimidate the coalition of student organizations at UNLV, their presence has made a statement, however, we are not intimidated.”
The claims of intimidation would be more believable if they didn’t post a video showing what actually happened. Nothing.
The cops weaved slowly around empty tables and empty chairs for a minute and then drove off. The cops never flashed their lights or appeared to pay any attention to the few students remaining nearby. That’s because the cops were on a training exercise to practice going through tight spaces. It’s training they have done at UNLV for decades, and they do it in the evening to avoid disrupting student activities.
Take 30 seconds to watch the video, and you’ll see the likelihood of a stare-down is virtually nil. If officers had been watching the students, instead of where they were going, they’d have crashed into the furniture.
This would have been a good time for UNLV President Len Jessup to be the adult on campus and encourage everyone to take a deep breath. Maybe send a reminder on the dangers of rushing to conclusions, especially when all but accusing police officers of being motivated by racism.
Nope. Jessup issued a campus-wide message declaring the officers’ actions “unacceptable.” He cited no misconduct by the officers, other than them not giving UNLV police a courtesy heads up that they were on campus. He chastised them because their mere presence “caused concern.” He then demanded that the department apologize. Apologize for what? Jessup’s office refused my interview request.
The ones who should apologize are those running the UNLV BLM Facebook page. Their unsubstantiated claims that the officers were trying to “intimidate” them started this uproar.
The appearance of NLV police “cannot be dismissed as a simple coincidence,” said Javon Johnson, faculty adviser for the UNLV BLM chapter. “There exists a robust history of state intimidation and coercion, even, perhaps especially, under the guise of normal operations, such as routine training.”
“I don’t think it was a coincidence that they just decided to come and do their training there,” said Vera Anderson, who won the poetry event but left before the police showed up.
So, here’s their theory. Years before the BLM movement existed, North Las Vegas police started motorcycle training at UNLV. They used this as cover to intimidate African- Americans at a poetry reading that there’s no evidence the officers knew anything about. To be extra threatening, they showed up after the event had concluded. They didn’t interact with the students and left after a minute or so.
America has seen incidents in which cops used their power inappropriately to intimidate minorities. This isn’t one of them.