Students around Boston are coming together with a list of demands from Cambridge City Council.
On Jan. 4, Sayed Arif Faisal was shot and killed by Cambridge Police outside of his apartment. Faisal was a 20-year-old UMass Boston student from Bangladesh, and according to UMass Boston’s Pakistan Student Association, he was going through an apparent mental health crisis when the incident occurred. His death has caused outrage throughout Boston and led to a petition being passed around UMass Boston and other nearby institutions, led by Boston’s Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL). There have been protests at City Hall and PSL meetings across campuses to discuss the next steps in the movement. The major concerns of the movement include racism, police brutality, and the lack of transparency from the Cambridge Police.
In addition to rallies and meetings, a petition aimed at Cambridge City Council is circulating. Protesters are listing four demands surrounding the situation, including releasing the names of the officer(s) who murdered Faisal, releasing the unredacted police report of the incident, firing the involved officers, and prosecuting the officers to the fullest extent of the law. The petition is still open and can be found here.
Students at UMass Boston are outraged by the situation and are showing solidarity by displaying messages around campus while PSL members are educating students about the situation and many are attending rallies in Cambridge. UMB’s Pakistan Student Association posted a statement on their Instagram account encouraging students “to bring awareness to the police brutality our fellow Brown and Black community members are faced with and stand with us” through conversations surrounding mental health, specifically the negative stigma around mental health in South Asian culture.
In the statement, Sana Haroon focuses on what the students need from the administration in response to the murder, mostly detailing how UMass Boston could honor Faisal’s memory and support their campus community. Vice Chancellor Karen Ferrer-Muñiz sent a school-wide statement regarding Faisal’s death on March 13. In the email, she addressed the nature of Faisal’s death, declaring solidarity with the community who “clamor for a transparent investigation and, as always, the pursuit of justice.” She also invited the UMass Boston community to a memorial commemorating Faisal’s life and announced the development of a scholarship named and honored after Faisal.
We reached out to Vice-Chancellor Ferrer-Muñiz to ask for her thoughts on the tragedy, specifically about the teach-in and how the University is utilizing its resources to support the students. She addressed Faisal’s death as “a profound tragedy that has deeply affected many in our community” and spoke of his talented, creative, and selfless nature.
Along with the memorial invitation and scholarship announcement, an invite and itinerary for a teach-in were sent to UMass Boston students. In her comment to us, she described teach-in as “an opportunity for community members to come together to reflect and have a conversation” while the itinerary covered topics such as community mental health responses, structural racism, and community solidarity.
Regarding the mental health of students and staff in coping with Faisal’s death, Ferrer-Muñiz said that many steps are in place for situations regarding deceased students. The steps that she lists involve “offering counseling and spiritual resources, communicating with the deceased’s faculty, and reaching out to the deceased’s peers as they are identified.” In addition, she details many strategies being used to help the community such as “increasing the number of counseling center staff, offering 24/7 telephonic counseling and medical support, expanding multicultural mental health support, and increasing non-clinical efforts with campus partners” while welcoming any additional ideas or suggestions.
UMass Boston gave its community the chance to voice their opinions and honor Sayed Faisal on March 24 at a teach-in covering topics of conversation regarding our community. A memorial for and celebration of Faisal’s life was held after the event. Those in attendance got a chance to have an honest and engaging talk with the administration at UMass Boston and address the concerns of the community. There are still many ways that students can get involved with the movement and help address concerns about police brutality. Throughout this past week (April 10-April 14), there has been a group of students and residents of Cambridge picketing at Cambridge City Hall. Students can get involved by visiting the sign-up sheet where you can pick a shift to demand justice for Faisal. You can stay updated on these events and more by following the PSL’s Facebook Page.