May 5, 2012

Citing Trayvon, People Allegedly Threw Bottles at Black Students From Fraternity Roof

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Updated with new information from Sigma Pi

Allegedly taunting them with references to Trayvon Martin, a group of people on the roof of the Sigma Pi fraternity house reportedly threw bottles and other objects at black students who were walking by the house early Sunday morning, according to several accounts.

Sigma Pi President Zach Smith ’13 said in an email Sunday afternoon that the fraternity has “figured out who the perpetrator was, and will turn his name over to police.” The individual identified was not a brother of the fraternity, he said.

Cornell Chief of Police Kathy Zoner confirmed that people were “reportedly making racial references” and throwing bottles from the roof of Sigma Pi. She added that she could not disclose more information because the investigation, which is being led by Ithaca Police, is ongoing.

Beverly Fonkwo ’14 said she was walking home with a friend when, unprovoked, the group on the fraternity roof began throwing objects that landed near a group walking behind them.

When the people walking behind Fonkwo asked them to stop, the people on top of the fraternity continued to throw objects — including a Jack Daniels that landed near the group behind and an unopened beer can that landed near Fonkwo and her friend — she said.

When they asked them to stop again, the group responded, “‘Come up here, Trayvon,’ and started making all these other racial comments,” Fonkwo said. A black teenager from Florida, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in February — a death that was widely perceived as unprovoked and galvanized African American activists across the country.

“I feel like it was targeted and racially motivated … we felt very threatened,” Fonkwo said of the incident Sunday. Meanwhile, the assailants “were just laughing at the whole situation until we called the police and then they ran inside,” she said.

Smith, the Sigma Pi president, said the fraternity is “sorry the incident happened on our premises.” He said that a large number of outsiders — including alumni and friends of brothers — were attending the event.

Smith added that he was “shocked” upon learning of the incident later Sunday morning.

“We pride ourselves on having a very diverse house,” he said. “It’s not the character of our house and not any way we’d like Sigma Pi to be represented.”

That may be of little consolation to Sade Samakinwa ’14, who said she saw her friends outside the house “pretty shook up” after the incident.

“I think the most shocking thing was not that bottles were being thrown but that they were shouting Trayvon,” Samakinwa said. “To use that boy’s name so disrespectfully while disrespecting someone is absolutely insane.”

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Original Author: Jeff Stein