This article originally appeared at Youngist.org and is reposted here with permission.
Yesterday, in its first public rally, Columbia’s anti-rape group, No Red Tape, called on students to come out and voice their experiences of sexual violence directly in front of Low Library, the seat of Columbia’s administration.
Last year, No Red Tape made national headlines for attempting to hand out warning fliers to prospective students, organizing a 23 student Title IX complaint, and putting together a solidarity action on graduation day. But last year, a small core of students organized most of these actions—a fact that many online commentators have used to claim the anti-rape movement is getting too much attention.
The demonstration, however, left no doubt that No Red Tape’s actions had galvanized the student body. Over three hundred students, community activists, alumni, and curious journalists converged on campus, making it No Red Tape’s first campus rally, the largest in recent memory. Over 15 students lugged their dorm mattresses to the protest in solidarity with Emma Sulkowicz, a senior who has decided to carry her mattress everywhere she goes on campus as long as her alleged rapist, Paul Nungesser, is allowed to remain on campus.
“I brought my mattress to the rally yesterday because Emma (Sulkowicz) asked people to bring them to show support,” said Jen Sluka, a Columbia sophomore, “I think its important for a lot of people to bring their mattresses to show that this happens everywhere and its not just Emma’s issue, but all of ours.”
In the last year, campus sexual violence has been a much-publicized issue across the country, but has often been co-opted by lawmakers to push for increased involvement on the part of the police and the criminal justice system. So many reporters were surprised by No Red Tape’s start to the rally, a spoken-word poem denouncing the relationship between Columbia’s complicity in sexual violence and its simultaneous takeover of West Harlem and close ties to the NYPD.