Hundreds of protesters gathered on Main Street on Wednesday night to criticize the University of Delaware’s handling of domestic and sexual violence.
The protest came in the aftermath of student Brandon Freyre’s arrest for allegedly strangling another student to unconsciousness and holding her captive in a Newark apartment for four hours before throwing her down a flight of stairs.
Freyre, 20, was charged with second-degree kidnapping, second-degree assault, strangulation, terroristic threatening, third-degree assault and criminal mischief. He was later released after posting $38,100 cash bail.
“The focus of our protest is domestic violence, including sexual violence,” said protest organizer and sophomore Kiera Spann. “It is not specifically about this event. That event just gave a voice to this problem.”
Protesters held signs reading “Believe survivors” and "Hold him accountable” outside of the Main Street Galleria before marching on Main Street and North Chapel Street. They criticized the University of Delaware’s response to the issue and singled out UD President Dennis Assanis with a chant of “Dennis bye-bye" and a sign reading “Dennis, your silence speaks volumes.”
The group also focused on Freyre’s fraternity, Kappa Delta Rho, with a chant of “KDR has got to go” echoing through the crowd.
“UD hasn’t really taken action,” said freshman Elijah Morton, who played trumpet while the people marched. “They posted an apology which wasn’t much of an apology. They just wanted to make sure they didn’t get in trouble.”
Freyre has been officially separated from the University of Delaware and is not allowed on campus.
"The past few days have been difficult for the University of Delaware community," UD Vice President for Student Life José-Luis Riera wrote in a letter to students. "We are writing to acknowledge the harm inflicted, denounce the violence reported, and call for our community to come together and advance our goals of a campus climate free of all violence, including gender-based violence and violence against women."
He noted that Freyre’s membership in KDR has been permanently revoked.
"At this point, we do not have information that connects the fraternity with this specific incident," Riera said. "If information is discovered or presented that alleges the fraternity’s involvement, we will initiate the Student Conduct Process."
After the march on Main Street, the protesters came together in a circle and allowed students to speak about their experience with sexual assault on campus. When one student asked every woman who has felt unsafe on campus to raise their hands, dozens of hands in the crowd shot up.
“As an assault survivor, I shouldn’t be afraid to walk alone by myself on campus,” protester Gabby Morra said. “As a gay woman, I shouldn’t be afraid to hold my girlfriend’s hand on campus.”
Student Sarina Simpson called for the university to take preventive action, instead of reactive measures, including increased vetting of prospective students and mandatory courses in diversity and women’s studies.
“People who have not been exposed to a diverse population in their high school and the bubble they grew up can come here and understand and learn from marginalized groups, from women, about all these things that happen and know how to prevent it,” Simpson said.
Domenick Rathof called out to the men in the crowd, saying that more men need to support movements protesting against violence toward women.
“I want all of you guys to go home and get a friend and bring him out here,” Rathof, a freshman, said. “Let them hear these stories, let them see how horribly their friends have been treated. They will know our message and know UD needs to change its ways.”
Spann said the protesters want to see better enforcement of the rule that requires members of Greek Life organizations to take sexual assault prevention training.
The protesters also called for UD to enforce the code of conduct policy around complicity in crimes, which says that students cannot help other students commit violations through acts of omission.
"We would like to see the university to move forward enforcing this rule and placing members of organizations on probation or suspension if they are found to have previous knowledge of the event," Spann said.
Students also called for the creation of a new leadership position focusing on women and student safety, the installation of more emergency blue lights in off-campus areas, and for fraternities and other organizations to have more education and speakers about sexual assault and abuse.