Vigil for Schultz undercut by violence

Photo Courtesy of Tim Felbinger

Monday night saw a vigil at the campanile to honor Scout Schultz break into rioting, eventually ending in three arrests and two police officers wounded as well as property damage.

The vigil was hosted by the Tech Progressive Student Alliance. Candles were distributed to attendees of the event, which attracted members of several media stations. Speakers included some members of the Pride Alliance Executive Board as well as Aby Parsons, Ph.D., director of the LGBTQIA resource center at Tech.

“It’s nearly impossible to talk about Scout without mentioning how influential of an activist they were,” said William Harrer, secretary of Pride Alliance. “They were very outspoken about their political stance, and let everyone know how they could get involved whenever possible.”

“It’s also worth noting how much hard work Scout poured into our organization,” said Genny Kennedy, vice president of Pride Alliance. “How they managed to balance majoring in computer engineering, minoring in biomedical engineering and being involved in countless events on and off campus while maintaining exceptional grades is only a testimony to Scout’s true strength.

“I was Pride Alliance’s advisor, and Scout was frustrated with how apathetic the Georgia Tech community could be when it came to issues of social justice,” said Parsons. “They felt that I, as administrator, was trying to use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house, when they wanted to smash that house into pieces and build a new one altogether. In turn, I tried to show Scout how even slow incremental and institutional progress was still progress. It was through these spirited discussions and disagreements that we were able to learn from each other and grow in our advocacy.”

The official event was concluded by the mass-lighting of the distributed candles along with a rendition of the song “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5. Soon after, individuals amongst those assembled for the vigil began speaking up.

“Georgia Tech isn’t responsible, but they may have direct accountability for this,” said Julia Grey, a third-year BME in attendance. “They don’t provide adequate mental healthcare services.”

“Why don’t GTPD carry tasers?” yelled one person.

“Why are they here at all?” asked another, to cheers and applause from the crowd.

“Bud Peterson, are you watching this?” Grey said. “Bud Peterson! We demand more than 16 counseling services. We demand unlimited. We demand better healthcare. We demand access to transgender housing. You type in f****** UT Austin, UC Berkeley, MIT, Stanford, any of these goddamn schools, and you’ll see. Gender-neutral housing, gender-neutral bathrooms. They lock the goddamn gender-neutral bathrooms at night in the CULC.”

“You want to know why Scout died?” Grey continued. “You want to know why Scout was hurting? It’s because this is bullsh*t!”

By about ten minutes after the last official speaker from the vigil concluded, other voices had taken control of the conversation in the area. Individuals with outfits and paraphernalia indicating affiliation with the group Antifa began to chant as well as beat a drum.

“No justice, no peace! F*** the police!” went one chant.

This continued for a period of time, after which the contingent, which numbered roughly 50-60 people, began to march down Skiles walkway towards Clough. The group turned left at the corner of Tech green and started north. During this period, individuals amongst the group continued to chant and beat drums. At least one carried a lit flare.

Some that had been present at the vigil remained at their spots around the campanile.

“I think people are angry, and I think sometimes when you’re angry, you know, it’s easy to yell and scream,” said one student who wished to remain anonymous. “Like walking down Tech green with a flare and drums is maybe not the easiest route, but it’s easier than, you know, putting in the hard work and effort to — like Aby said — get that incremental change that’s actually going to make an impact.”

Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Life John Stein also stuck around afterwards. At one point, a student confronted Stein about a perceived lack of focus on mental health and counseling services by Tech administration.

“Every single year I’ve known someone who has committed suicide,” the student said. “This should not continue. We should be funding the counseling center instead of f****** fraternities.”

“The counseling center has been funded a great deal … ” Stein said.

“Yea, well people are quitting in protest of the fact that the counseling center doesn’t get more funding,” the student said.

“And as a member of the Greek life … that’s not what Greek life stands for,” said another student who spoke up. “Greek life stands for brotherhood and fostering people. It does not stand for suicide.”

“I should not have waited six weeks for a psychiatry appointment when I told them was suicidal,” the first student said.

“And I agree with that,” Stein replied.

“Then make some f****** changes,” the student said. “Grow a backbone. You going to stand up to the Board of Regents, ever? One of these days?”

At this point, Stein began to walk away from the campanile area, back towards the student center.

Later, the marching contingent arrived around the Beringause building, which serves as the GTPD station. The situation grew violent, with one GTPD officer sustaining an injury to the head. Blood could be seen trickling down his scalp. A GTPD police vehicle was set ablaze as well, via an incendiary object thrown into the interior. It was at this point that arrests began to be made, and three individuals would be in custody before the night was over.

Cassandra Monden, who was booked as Andrew Xavier Monden by Fulton County, is a student at Tech and until recently was listed as the webmaster of Pride Alliance. Monden was charged with felony interference with government property as well as misdemeanor incitement of a riot. Vincent Castillenti, a non-student of age 31, was charged with felony aggravated assault and felony willful obstruction of an officer. Jacob Wilson, another non-student, was charged with three counts of felony aggravated assault in addition to three counts of misdemeanor trespass.

A GTENS alert telling students to seek shelter was rescinded at about 11:00 p.m. Two police officers had been injured during the night, one of whom was taken to Grady Hospital for treatment.

A statement issued by Institute Communications was issued in regards to the night’s events.

“After a peaceful memorial vigil for Georgia Tech student Scout Schultz, a group of approximately 50 protestors marched to the Georgia Tech Police Department,” the statement read. “One police vehicle was damaged and two officers suffered minor injuries. One officer was transported to Grady Hospital with minor injuries. The Atlanta Police Department and Georgia State University Police Department helped restore order relatively quickly. Georgia Tech police arrested Vincent Castillenti, Jacob Wilson, and Cassandra Monden. All three were charged with inciting a riot and battery of an officer.”

On Tuesday morning, Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson made an Institute-wide statement that included remarks about the vigil and its aftermath.

“Last night’s vigil at the Campanile that was coordinated by the Pride Alliance and the Progressive Student Alliance was attended by almost 500 community members including Scout’s family,” Peterson’s statement read. “Unfortunately, they were also joined by several dozen others intent on creating a disturbance and inciting violence. We believe many of them were not part of our Georgia Tech community, but rather outside agitators intent on disrupting the event. They certainly did not honor Scout’s memory nor represent our values by doing so.”