On Friday more than 30 members of the Black Caucus of the Washoe Democrats, UNR Young Democrats, and the Reno/Sparks NAACP gathered for the “Take a Knee” rally, marching from University of Nevada, Reno’s (UNR) Mackay Stadium to Mathewson IGT Knowledge Center.
According to event leader and Black Caucus president Nnedi Stephens, the event had two main goals. The first was to discuss police brutality toward minorities, especially African Americans. The second was to show solidarity with UNR alumna and football player Colin Kaepernick, whose decision to kneel in protest during the national anthem at NFL games has sparked a national debate.
Recent events on campus, including a campus police stop and the painting of swastikas in the Church Fine Arts building, were also addressed by speakers at the event.
Patricia Gallimore, president of the Reno/Sparks NAACP, which supports Kaepernick, discussed how his original protest against abuses by police was being mis-represented by many as a protest against the American flag or US veterans. The real issue is bias by racist police officers, she said. Gallimore pointed out that in the major cases of black men killed by police most of the officers involved are not prosecuted. In her words police were “paid to kill us,” referring to African Americans.
Precious Gbenjo, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN), spoke to the current treatment of Kaepernick who is still unsigned to a team in the NFL. She felt that players that are kneeling during the national anthem now doing so not in solidarity with Kaepernick but rather in rebellion against President Trump, distorting the point of the original protest.
Gbenjo also addressed current events on campus, referring to both the swastikas and the police stop, adding that while UNR officials tout a diverse campus that does not mean it is also a safe campus.
Kevin McReynolds, the graduate student stopped by UNR police, was unable to attend Friday’s event but sent along a prepared statement. He echoed statements from his recent blog post about how UNR officials were unwilling to take his concerns seriously until his contact with an associate on the UNR police force revealed the dashcam video that documented the event.
Several more speakers followed, including State Senator Julia Ratti, then the band retook the mic to sing the national anthem. All of the attendees went down on one knee and quietly stayed so throughout the anthem. After a round of applause for the volunteer band the crowd disassembled to chat in small groups or headed off for the evening.