After the death of Bowie State University student Richard Collins III on the University of Maryland campus, student and community activists demanded change Tuesday when it comes to hate crimes.
Some of the recommendations include a zero-tolerance policy when hate incidents occur at the College Park institution and for school officials to assess every one that’s reported by a victim. The school has dealt with various race-related issues before Collins’ death that included a noose found on the campus April 27.
The Maryland State Conference of the NAACP, Youth and College Division, and the Prince George’s County NAACP branch held a news conference Tuesday in front of the county administration building in Upper Marlboro to convey a simple message: Enough is enough.
“We stand in remembrance of young man that was about to fulfill his dream of serving and defending our country, but his life was cut down by someone who didn’t understand the value of life,” said Gerald Stansbury, president of the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP. “The entire state of Maryland should mourn the death of 2nd Lt. Collins … and the state of Maryland should lower the Maryland state flag at half-mast … to let the citizens of Maryland and other states know there is no room for hate.”
In response to University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh’s announcement last week of the creation of a task force to review policies and procedures, recent graduate Yanet Amanule said the group should led by students.
“There is no current student majority body with legislative power, so we would like students to hold most of the seats on the task force,” she said. “We have never been idle and we will continue to advocate for ourselves. Despite the many tragedies that befall in our community, we remain resilient.”
Both the Maryland and Bowie State communities have been shaken by the fatal stabbing of Collins, 23, who visited the campus to visit friends. Collins, who was black, was attacked May 20 by a white University of Maryland student, Sean Urbanski, 22, of neighboring Anne Arundel County, who police said may be part of a racist Facebook group. He remains in custody on murder and assault charges.
Collins was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army, several days before he was to graduate from Bowie State on May 23.
The FBI office in Baltimore will assist the Prince George’s state’s attorney office and the police in the investigation. State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks has asked for the community’s patience during the ongoing investigation, emphasizing that it’s too early to determine whether the case constitutes a hate crime.
“Since the FBI is involved, it’s obvious they believe it’s a hate crime,” Amanule, 23, said. “I don’t think it would be quick to say it is. I really don’t know what else they could frame it as at this point.”
Charnell Ferguson, 21, a senior at Bowie State, had a human resources class with Collins.
“We are all stunned and hurt because Richard was such as good person,” said Ferguson, president of the Maryland NAACP Youth and College Division. “To see somebody who was serving and to see somebody doing what they were supposed to do, it’s just disheartening. We have to take a stand. We got to make change.”