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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Breaking: Classes canceled Monday, Sept. 21 in wake of Michael Williams’ killing


In recognition of the need for action and community discussion after the killing of Michael Williams, Grinnell College classes will be canceled on Monday, Sept. 21, College President Anne Harris and Chief Diversity Officer Schvalla Rivera announced in an email to the student body on Sunday night.

The Grinnell police department (GPD) has not publicly identified the investigation into the killing of Williams, a Black man whose body was discovered burned in a ditch in Kellogg last Wednesday, as a hate crime at the time of this article’s publishing. GPD Chief Dennis Reilly wrote in a letter to the College community that he is “keenly aware of the national conversation taking place regarding acts of violence against Black Americans,” but also stated that the department believes that there is no “continuing threat to our [Grinnell’s] community.”

Heavily followed Grinnell College-based antiracist Instagram account @gcbipoc pushed back on the claim that there is no threat to the community, writing, “Chief Reilly’s statement is what indifference to Black death looks like. And that is disgusting.” The post urged readers to call the GPD in opposition to the statement, writing, “Michael Williams deserves real justice, and Black Grinnellians need protection.”

The email from Harris and Rivera states, “This stark and brutal murder in the national context of racial injustice has struck intense fear for the safety of our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) colleagues, friends, and families. National context has become local experience.” Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Sarah Moschenross sent a follow-up email shortly afterward listing a series of virtual events, as well as an in-person outdoor vigil (time and location details are in the email) on the College campus, that the school will hold over the next week to help students, faculty and staff process and recognize Williams’ death and the circumstances surrounding it.

Donate towards Williams’ funeral expenses and to support his family here and here.

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