Students disrupted the start of a Family Weekend campus tour Saturday afternoon, unveiling banners and reciting demands that the University must sever all ties with Warren Kanders ’79 P’23, who owns law enforcement and military supply manufacturer the Safariland Group.
The demonstration began shortly after 3 p.m. when nine students, all of whom are members of student collective Warren Kanders Must Go, climbed the steps of the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center and approached a tour group predominantly composed of current students’ family members. Two more students poked their heads out of a second-floor window in Faunce and released a banner reading: “Brown University Sponsored By Tear Gas.”
“At Brown, our Protest and Demonstration Guidelines make clear that protest is a necessary and acceptable means of expression within the Brown community — but that protest becomes unacceptable when it obstructs the basic exchange of ideas, disrupts or materially interferes with the educational functions of the University,” wrote Brian Clark, director of news and editorial development, in an email to The Herald. Clark also wrote that if a protest were to violate University guidelines, it would prompt the school to “review the circumstances in the context of the Code of Student Conduct.”
Saturday’s protest follows a series of actions led by members of Warren Kanders Must Go. In addition to disrupting the tour, students distributed fliers at a Friday afternoon Family Weekend event entitled “Environmental Change, Societal Challenges and the Power of Financial Investments,” hosted at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society. Kanders, who could not be reached for comment by press time, is a member of the advisory council for the IBES. Along with his wife, Allison Kanders, he has also financially supported a Brown Arts Initiative lecture series since 2017.
Kanders stepped down as vice chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art this summer over protests about his company’s sale of tear gas, The Herald previously reported. Safariland Group sells tear gas that law enforcement officials have reportedly used on migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, among other incidents worldwide.
In a February 2018 letter to The Herald, Kanders affirmed his commitment to the University community and defended Safariland and its products.
“Our less lethal products are designed to give law enforcement crowd control options in dangerous situations,” Kanders wrote. “As with any product, ultimate responsibility for its use falls on the individuals involved in their use.”
“We reject the false choice between meeting protesters with tear gas or with bullets,” Nina Wolff Landau ’20 told the tour group Saturday. “The solution is not controlling a crowd through violence, it is addressing the systemic failures that protesters are calling out.”
Behind her, other demonstrators held a large banner simply lettered: “Warren Kanders Must Go.”
After about a minute, student tour guides proceeded with their introductions, urging protesters to move, saying they were on a tight schedule. “I wasn’t sure what to do,” Tyler Zickmund ’22, who has been a tour guide since the spring, told The Herald.
Zickmund’s parents were on the tour, and he noted no one in the tour group brought up the disruption during the tour.
Demonstrators continued to recite demands as the tour guides gave their introductions. Beyond cutting all ties with Kanders, the collective of students are calling for the University to establish “a transparent, ethical gift policy,” Wolff Landau told the group.
Brickson Diamond ’93 and Bernadette Aulestia ’94 — both members of the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body — expanded on the University’s gift policy in a letter to The Herald last month. “Brown does not accept gifts if it’s evident the proceeds were obtained illicitly, and only accepts gifts that are aligned with Brown priorities and do not carry strings dictating educational or research decisions,” they wrote.
In a Feb. 21 op-ed in The Herald, President Christina Paxson P’19 evoked Brown’s current gift policy, adopted in 2002, as the standard she and the University abide by: “Gifts will be accepted so long as they are found to contribute to the approved purposes of the University.”
Members of Warren Kanders Must Go have disputed the president’s response, demanding that the University impliment and publicize a more stringent ethical line for gifts with input from students, faculty and staff.