The Complete Evergreen Story ep. 14: Black Lives Matter

You already know about the Day of Absence which became a flashpoint in the Evergreen story by asking white people to absent themselves from campus to allow people of color to have the school to themselves. Where did the impetus for that come from?

In the latest episode of The Complete Evergreen Story, Benjamin Boyce explains how a 2015 police shooting in Olympia, not far from the campus, set the stage for Black Lives Matter to dominate discussions at the school the following year. The shooting involved two step-brothers, Bryson Chaplin and Andre Thompson, who are black. In May 2015 they were suspects in a grocery store robbery. Officer Ryan Donald, who is white, encountered the two men riding their skateboards on the street and stopped them. Donald claimed the brothers attacked him and one of them raised a skateboard as a weapon so he shot both of them in self-defense. They fled into the woods but then returned and Officer Donald fired at them again. Thompson was seriously injured and Chaplin was paralyzed but both men survived.

The shooting led to street protests (with Antifa making an appearance). This episode doesn’t really deal with the outcome of that case but the shooting was deemed to be justified and a jury convicted both Chaplin and Thompson of third-degree assault. However, the two brothers have also sued Donald and that lawsuit is still ongoing as of February of this year when a judge refused to dismiss it.

The focus of this episode isn’t just the shooting but how it was received and described on campus by professor Naima Lowe. Lowe was already asking students to focus on racism and activism in the community before the shooting occurred. Afterward, she dialed her outrage up, claiming in a Pride speech, “we are among the black people who are killed every 28 minutes by a cop!”

That was a misstatement of a claim which was circulating at the time. In 2013 a group called  Malcolm X Grassroots Movement released a report claiming a black person was shot by a police officer every 28 hours, not minutes. That would be bad enough except that claim also wasn’t true. The Washington Post fact-checker gave the claim four Pinocchios: “The victims studied in the report were not all unarmed, and they were not all killed by police. Yet this alarmist statement continues to be perpetrated on social media and in protests, and it is inaccurate, especially when distilled to a hashtag.”

Boyce argues at the end of this clip that many of the arguments Evergreen student protesters would later adopt came from Lowe’s outlook. Not coincidentally, the students who would eventually protest Bret Weinstein and demand his resignation were Lowe’s students. She also became part of the protest on the side of the students, at one point yelling dismissively at a group of teachers who just wanted to go home. Of course, it helped that President Bridges was largely in agreement with Lowe’s outlook.

Finally, given the backstory presented here and the reaction on campus and off, it’s not hard to see how the tiny Evergreen police force became a focus of student outrage.