Students end sit-in at Duke administration building

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Students end a sit-in but vow their fight will go on.

Duke sit-in participants vacated the Allen Building on the Duke campus after NC NAACP and other supporters held a news conference Friday.

Eight students emerged and declared victory in their battle with administrators over what they allege is deep and widespread institutional racism and discrimination at the university. They were also demanding the ouster of three administrators as well as a list of other requests, including a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers.

"Duke administration has realized this movement cannot be contained, so we are taking this movement outside," one sit-in participant said Friday afternoon.

"We are just getting started," she added.

After the news conference and subsequent speeches, the crowd chanted "I believe that we will win." Students, workers, and supporters marched to the bus stop and down Chapel Drive. They sang and chanted as they marched around the traffic circle, then returned.

Friday evening, student organizers issued a press release explaining the decision to end the sit-in inside the building.

"The students decided to leave the building, because of the administration's continued obstinance in the face of the students' and workers' efforts to negotiate the proposed demands," the statement read. "The administration not only refused to come to the table and discuss demands, but also threatened to revoke the amnesty they had previously promised and, in fact, reported the students to the Office of Student Conduct. This is not a movement that sacrifices the security and well-being of our fellow community members in order to make a point."

Nine students (one left the sit-in early for a poetry competition) took over the reception area outside the office of school President Richard Brodhead on April 1. Since then, Duke has relocated classes from Allen Building and banned visitors while allowing employees to come and go through one door.

Brodhead issued a statement after Friday's demonstration ended.

"This afternoon the group of students who had occupied the Allen Building since last Friday voluntarily left the building," Brodhead said. "Though we have disagreed about the specifics of their demands and their choice of means, I respect their underlying passion for making Duke and the world a better place. The university renews its commitments toward advancing the causes of fairness and inclusion across this community, including for workers. I now look forward to our coming together in this important cause."


"It is not the end of the protest, this is a new chapter," another participant said. "We will continue to fight for the rights of workers."

In a release, the student group said "the Allen building sit-in was the starting point for the continued practice of holding the university accountable to our community standard. The students left the building in order to continue their work with the community outside. Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity have every intention to maintain Abele-Ville ("A-Ville" for short) outside the administrative building, and to continue to fight for the fulfillment of their demands."

Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said Friday that the protest has been a disruption on campus. "At the same time, there is no question that it has catalyzed discussion on campus about issues related to employment, respect, fairness and inclusion for all members of the Duke community," he said.

The Rev. William Barber addresses the crowd.

The Rev. William Barber, head of the NC NAACP called the protest "an act of faith."

"You can't be mad when your students have the knowledge of what's going on and the faith to change it," Barber said.

The civil rights leader also praised students for protesting. He said, "You don't want a stain on your diploma. You want to be proud of your school."

Students said earlier this week they now want a commitment by Duke to have an independent investigation of its labor practices; a commitment to raise the minimum wage for all campus workers to $12.53 per hour by the end of the year and to $15 an hour by the end of 2019; and commitment by Duke to negotiate the remaining demands with students and workers in coming weeks.

Those other demands include the firing of three administrators, including executive vice president Tallman Trask III. Trask, who was involved in a dispute with a contract parking attendant who says he used a racial slur, issued a public apology this week. The parking attendant, Shelvia Underwood, has sued Trask, who has denied using the slur.

Students say they are remobilizing efforts. They will rally Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. at the East Campus bus stop.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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