Members of the 3/20 Coalition and the State College community donned glow sticks and wrote chalk messages Friday night to protest the death of Osaze Osagie at the Municipal Building, which is home to the State College Police Department.
Osagie was a 29-year-old Black State College resident who had autism and a history of schizophrenia. He was shot and killed by State College Police officers on March 20, 2019.
When three officers arrived at Osagie’s apartment to serve a mental health warrant, Osagie allegedly ran at the officers with a knife, and after an unsuccessful attempt to use a Taser on him, an officer fatally shot him.
Investigations by the SCPD and the district attorney’s office found the officers involved were not at fault.
Osagie's death elicited a strong response from State College and Penn State community members, who organized protests and formed the coalition in response to Osagie’s death. Many believe the shooting stemmed from racial and mental health-related biases from the officers involved.
The organization announced this event would operate as an occupation, which was meant to emphasize the group’s demands to the SCPD and borough leaders.
The 3/20 Coalition invited attendees to stay and occupy the space for 24 hours or “as long as it takes” for the SCPD “to acknowledge their failures to the Black community of State College,” according to a press release.
Additionally, attendees were encouraged to start filming police as a part of 3/20 Coalition’s “State College cop watch,” and send any videos to an encrypted email address.
Previously, the 3/20 Coalition announced a list of demands it wants Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna, Police Chief John Gardner and Borough Manager Tom Fountaine to meet. These demands included the divestment of guns during the service of mental health checks and warrants.
Osagie’s parents recently filed a lawsuit against the borough of State College and 10 State College Police officers for what they say was the wrongful death of their son.
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Errol Henderson, the first Black tenured political science professor at Penn State, said during the event that his letter to the editor, which was published in The Daily Collegian in January 2019, didn’t immediately change anything at the university.
“The U.S. had a Black president before the political science department had a second tenured Black professor,” Henderson said.
He said Penn State’s task forces on racism and bias at the university and its anti-racism training programs aren’t helpful. He added the university needs to “demystify” racism.
“[Penn State wants] to keep you content until they get you the hell out of here,” Henderson said.
Henderson also addressed the issue of white supremacy, calling on white people to take ownership for their actions. He said he believes white students at Penn State are less frequently targeted by the SCPD.
“White supremacism won’t just teach you what to think — it’ll teach you how to think,” Henderson said. “White folks could end white supremacy tomorrow.”
He said the white people who attended the event were “different” from the rest because they didn’t have to be “invited” to advocate for Black lives.
Henderson spoke about Osagie’s case and encouraged attendees to tell at least one person they know about Osagie in the coming week.
“What do you know about Osaze Osagie and what do you do about it?” Henderson said to the crowd. “If you need to kill civilians, you need a different job.”
Henderson added white people who showed up in support of the event’s cause were part of the the beginning of a cultural change.
“Don’t let them minimize what you’re doing,” Henderson said.
During the event, 3/20 Coalition also announced a new “Centre County Freedom Fund” to raise bail funds.
“It has become abundantly clear that our voices are being disregarded, muffled or, in some cases, intentionally misrepresented, and we wish to make the truth visible to all who live, visit or work in this town,” the 3/20 Coalition said in a press release. “The SCPD currently have murderers on their payroll, patrolling our streets [and] engaging our children. This is unacceptable.”
The 3/20 Coalition created five teams to work with participants throughout the event, including health and facilities, safety and security, program and entertainment, food and child care.
“We’re going to make this our space for 24 hours,” one member of the 3/20 Coalition said. “We need to be spreading the word.”