UW-Milwaukee SDS and community demand justice for Déjah Welsh and increased Black student enrollment
Milwaukee, WI – On Thursday, September 14, UW-Milwaukee Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and supporting community organizations rallied together to demand justice for Déjah Welsh. Welsh is a Black former student who attended UWM in 2013. Like many students, she was struggling with mental health issues, and while having a mental health crisis, UWM police officers attacked her and nearly suffocated her to death. They only stopped when she said, “I don’t want to end up like Derek Williams.” Williams was suffocated to death in the back of a Milwaukee police squad car in 2011. Once they stopped, they put her in a mental health facility.
When she tried to return to campus, UWM administration gave her the runaround, and basically prevented her from re-enrolling by forcing her to miss deadlines. Years later, she is trying to enroll at a different university to continue her education, but UWM will not release her transcripts to her.
Unfortunately, Welsh’s experience with campus police is not unique. Many Black students have been targeted, harassed and brutalized by UWM PD. It’s no wonder that Black enrollment is so low.
“It’s important to keep these stories alive because often the Black people that this happens to don’t get to tell their story or more importantly don’t receive the justice they deserve. So often we hear about the Black UWM students who faced similar things in their classrooms, in the dorms and with administration,” Welsh said during the rally.
After the rally, nearly 20 protesters marched through campus to Chancellor Mone’s Fall Address to make their demands known. They protested outside the venue before going inside with signs that read “Justice for Déjah!” and “Increase Black enrollment!”
“When we went inside, there were about five campus cops and a staff person who told us we couldn’t stand up, we had to sit down,” says SDS member Patricia Fish. “It’s clear that Chancellor Mone knows UWM made a huge mistake, and they were doing damage control.”
During the address, Mone showed a video tokenizing a Black student, and spoke about opportunities available to Black students, but he could barely look in the protesters’ direction.
SDS demands that UWM administration and police department apologize to Déjah Welsh for what happened, release her transcripts, forgive her student loans from her time at UWM, and give her a grant to return to school. Welsh should not owe any money to an institution responsible for traumatizing her and barring her from higher education!
“It’s time to come forward and fight back,” says Welsh, “I’m not the first and I'm definitely not the last student this has happened to. I encourage any other Black and brown students at UWM who have faced similar racism to come forward and seek justice.”