Correction appended, Nov. 19
Students at Smith College in Massachusetts held a sit-in in their campus Student Center on Wednesday, but any non-supportive media outlets hoping to cover the event were met with strict orders to stay away.
The students said no media were allowed into the event unless they expressed explicit solidarity with their protest movement, according to MassLive. “We are asking that any journalists or press that cover our story participate and articulate their solidarity with black students and students of color,” a student organizer named Alyssa Mata-Flores told the publication. “By taking a neutral stance, journalists and media are being complacent in our fight.” Mata-Flores said because media often paint “radical black movements as violent and aggressive” they felt it was safer to guard who would be welcome to cover their event.
The sit in reportedly drew between 300 and 500 students to show their solidarity with students at Missouri University, whose protests against racism and racial bias led to the ousting of several administration officials. The school did not object to the student’s decision to ban media, though the noted it was the first event on campus of its magnitude where media were not welcomed. The school is private and therefore was not legally restricted from removing media from the student center if deemed necessary.
“It’s a student event, and we respect their right to do that, although it poses problems for the traditional media,” Smith spokesperson Stacey Schmeidel told MassLive.
A similar effort to block media from covering certain parts of protests was enacted at University of Missouri, where media were barred from taking pictures of a tent city students had erected on campus. One encounter involving a cameraman and protesters went viral, prompting a media professor involved in the protest to apologize.
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the aftermath of an encounter between protesters and a student journalist at the University of Missouri. The media professor involved in the protest who tried to block the journalist from taking pictures of the protesters apologized.