In the daylight, it was a much quieter and subdued Georgia Tech campus.
Last night, a vigil for Scout Schultz, the student who was shot and killed by campus police on Saturday, erupted into a violent protest, with a police car being set on fire from a flare.
Today, dozens of students gathered by the Skiles Classroom Building near the student center to write notes with sharpies and chalk to Schultz’s family and to the Georgia Tech Police Department. But there was clearly a divide around Schultz’s death and the campus police’s response.
Written in chalk on the sidewalk, someone wrote, “We heart GTPD.” But that sparked concern. Even someone nearby mentioned, “It feels like a slap in the face.” So the group washed away part of the writing and added some letters for the phrase to read, “We heart LGBT and GTPD.”
Asked about campus police response, third-year student Mykala Sinclair was hesitant.
“Um, I’m not completely sure how to answer this,” she said. “I don’t know if I want to answer this. It’s a very touchy subject and different opinions over it.”
Sinclair said she feels the overall context of police shootings get skewed.
“There’s individuals within those uniforms and I think that people forget that,” she said. “We shouldn’t just kind of collectively think of a whole group as bad but just, like, kind of individualize more so.”
Jack Wolfard, a first-year student at Tech, felt a little differently.
“A lot of people are outraged because of a death, because of a tragedy. And I think that’s well-deserved,” Wolfard said. “But to put all of the blame on the police and not some on the victim is wrong. There’s blame on both sides.”
Wolfard said he believes the officers were too lenient on Schultz because GTPD was responding to a 911 call reporting a suspect with a gun. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has since said it was Schultz who made the call and was wielding a multi-purpose tool, not a gun. But Wolfard said if GTPD were responding to a call about “only a knife, [the shooting] would have been over the top.”
Wolfard added he didn’t agree with the violent protests either. He said he was worried about people at the vigil and on campus.
“You can’t just torch police cars or destroy things because you’re mad,” he said. “There’s better ways.”
“I think that there’s an obvious divide,” said Tech’s undergraduate Student Government President Sujay Peramanu. “And anybody who kind of saw – followed what was happening [at the vigil turned protest], you know, there’s questions. There’s a lot of different questions”
Investigators found suicide notes in Schultz’s dorm room. Video Saturday night shows Schultz asking the campus police officers to shoot. Schultz, who was the president of Tech’s Pride Alliance, identified as intersex, nonbinary and bisexual and preferred the pronouns “they” and “them.”