A Republican state lawmaker in Pennsylvania wants the president of Penn State University to apologize for briefly joining students protesting over the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
During a protest on Dec. 3, a group of mostly black students laid down in a "die-in" in front of the steps of Old Main, the university's administrative building. The students were demonstrating in response to Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson not being charged after he shot and killed Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old.
Penn State President Eric Barron came down and joined the protesters doing a "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" pose.
— Samantha Martinez (@Slaamm__) December 3, 2014
President Barron stands in the 'Hands Up Don't Shoot' pose with Ferguson protestors (Photo: Mildred Williams) pic.twitter.com/Xh0QNC9QVU
— Onward State (@OnwardState) December 3, 2014
State Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-Tamaqua, was not pleased with Barron's brief activism, calling the gesture "disrespectful."
"I think it is unbelievable that the president of the university would show such disrespect to police officers, including its own campus police,” Knowles said in a statement.
Knowles, a former police officer, told PennLive the gesture perpetuates a false narrative about Brown's death.
"It originated out of Ferguson, and the incorrect implication is when people are surrendering and their hands are in the air they are being shot by police ... and that is absolutely not true," Knowles said.
Knowles said he won't try to use it as an excuse to punish Penn State legislatively, like slashing their budget, he just wants Barron to apologize. According to PennLive, Republican Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, whose disctrict includes Penn State, agreed Barron's "Hands Up" gesture was inappropriate. Corman did not respond to request for comment from HuffPost.
Penn State did not respond to request for comment from HuffPost either, but put out a statement previously this week, where Barron stated:
I strongly support and highly value law enforcement and our judicial process. At the same time, our nation faces a dilemma. We have a portion of our population who feels more vulnerable by virtue of their appearance. Our students faced this dilemma -- even when confronted by hate language posted anonymously to social media sites -- with a thoughtful and peaceful process that demonstrated their concerns. My sole purpose was to show my support and solidarity for the students involved.
Barron's reference to social media was speaking to the various racist messages posted on Yik Yak as Penn State students protested.