Pink Pistols Call on New U President to Change Policing on Campus


Jack Gambassi

Student-organizer Ermiya Fanaeian speaks at a protest against the funding of campus police which she organized in front of the Park building on the University of Utah campus on Aug. 26, 2021. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Jack O'Leary, News Writer


“No justice no peace, fuck the university police,” chanted protesters on Aug. 26, outside new University of Utah President Taylor Randall’s office at 201 Presidents Circle. Organized by Pink Pistols, the protest was aimed at getting the U to move towards defunding, then dismantling U police and reallocating those funds towards social programs.

Pink Pistols is a community military activist group that primarily works towards safeguarding queer and trans people of color from violence by taking up arms in order to protect themselves.

“How about instead of sitting in your [U Administration] offices, you come down here and actually face the very struggles you make us go through,” said Pink Pistols Founder and Director Ermiya Fanaeian, who is also a senior at the U. “The fact is we can not only imagine, but start working towards a police-less society.”

Fanaeian founded the Salt Lake City chapter of Pink Pistols in Summer 2020. According to her, many leftist socio-political groups are becoming more engaged in armed militant defense and realizing the idea of removing weapons from communities of color is rooted in racism and classicism.

“I used to lobby for the stripping of AR-15s from Americans hands, and now I own an AR-15; it’s been kind of this huge political change for me,” Fanaeian said.

For Fanaeian, who used to be a gun-control activist, the political shift came after hearing about Iyanna Dior, a transgender woman who was attacked at a gas station in Minnesota in June 2020.

“Everybody in the comment section was like, ‘we wish she had a gun with her in order to protect yourself’ and at that moment I was just like, I have more of a commitment to my community than I do the gun control movement, than I do these politicians who weren’t doing anything about these continuous attacks,” Fanaeian said.

According to Fanaeian, while this protest was aimed at highlighting the violence against the LGBTQ community and calling out the UUPD, it was also aimed directly at letting Randall know that Pink Pistols, along with other students on campus, will not be silent until their demands are heard.

“Ever since the beginning of her [Ruth Watkins] presidency we have protested her lack of accountability, we’ve protested her lack of doing anything about complacent and oppressive police on campus,” Fanaeian said. “She ran away from these problems and so this protest is about us calling to Taylor Randall and at the same time saying ‘look, you cannot run away from these problems.’ Just because Ruth has gone does not mean these problems are gone.”

Additionally, Fanaeian said the lack of accountability is a slap on the wrist for police and the U must support moving towards programs that would help women who are fleeing violence. While the U has set up resources such as the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention, Fanaeian believes it does not do enough.

While decentralizing police was the main goal of the protest, another issue organizers spoke about was the lack of affordable housing on and off campus.

“For a university as prestigious as ours, it would be a priority to have students remain in stable condition, have access to stable housing at the U of U as was the case for over 700 plus students, including myself this past summer,” said Cameron Haskins, a member of the Salt Lake chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

Haskins said housing on and off campus at the U and surrounding universities was inaccessible for many students. According to Haskins, police funding should be moved to address these needs by driving down living costs, decreasing the costs of meal plans and making general education courses more affordable.

“You know, a protest like this isn’t going to solve every problem, [but] there’ll be more and more people that will show up, and hopefully the momentum leads to some kind of change,” Haskins said.

Joe Ball, a freshman at the U, said he came out to the protest to learn about the abuses of campus police and hear speakers talk about these issues.

“I don’t totally know what’s been happening on campus but I’m pretty well aware of just how bad police everywhere are, and so I’m glad I hopefully get to be part of this and I hope there’s a lot more going forward,” Ball said.

Josh, a member with Students for a Democratic Society who wanted to keep his last name anonymous, said SDS has demands similar to those of Pink Pistols and spoke on how resources should be directed towards services such as the counseling center rather than rewarding the UUPD.

“Ideally be directed towards either low intuitions or helping increase [funding] for the Counseling Center and allowing students to access services that they can actually use and make useful in their everyday lives,” he said. “So they don’t have to either wait a long time to see a counselor or therapist.”


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