Students say ‘Black & Brown Lives Matter’ sign got them kicked out of Marquette game

Natalie Wickman

Photo courtesy of Megan Arriola.
Photo courtesy of Megan Arriola.

A group of four students said they were escorted from the BMO Harris Bradley Center Saturday for holding up a sign that read “Black & Brown Lives Matter” during the men’s basketball game.

The students holding the sign — Laree Pourier, Victoria Gokee-Rindal, Nyree Khamo and Joseph Martinez II — were approached by the arena’s security staff who said the sign was too large and in violation of the arena’s sign policy.

Martinez posted a photo of the incident on Facebook, with a caption that said he and the others were kicked out of the game by center security because of the sign.

Brian Dworak, vice president and general manager of the Bradley Center, said he was not present during the incident but was briefed on it after.

The arena’s policy allows guests to bring in 2-by-3-feet signs or smaller. Dworak said signs need to fit the policy so the view of other guests isn’t blocked. He also said he is not aware if anybody complained that the sign, approximately 4-by-8 feet, was blocking their view.

The students said they did not look up the center’s sign restrictions before making their sign.

Dworak said he does not believe that any member of security said the sign was “offensive.”

However, Khamo said a security member described the sign as “offensive.” When asked why, Khamo said the member would refer back to the banner size, avoiding the question.

Dworak said security asked the students to check their sign into the administrative office and pick it up after the game. He said the students declined and then left on their own.

“(The students) were absolutely not ejected from the building,” Dworak said.

Pourier disagrees, though, and said she and Gokee-Rindal were escorted out.

“After halftime ended, we were asked by the security officer who was closest to us to put away the sign, and so we did,” Pourier said. “Ten minutes into the second half of the game, the head of security approached (Martinez) and told him that he needed to come with him.”

Martinez and Khamo went outside of the seating area and said they were harshly questioned about the sign and told about the center’s sign size restrictions. Pourier and Gokee-Rindal also left and stood watching nearby until Pourier and Gokee-Rindal were escorted out.

“The two of us were escorted all the way out the building and had the door closed behind us,” Pourier said.

Martinez and Khamo said they also left the game after their friends were escorted out.

“After that, they proceeded to hand out big heads, which seemed a lot larger than the sign requirement security just told us,” Martinez said.

Dworak said Milwaukee police officers were likely already in the center and around the student section, especially since alcohol was being served.

“We have police in the building for virtually every event we do,” Dworak said. “It had nothing to do with the content of the signage. It was really about size.”

University spokesman Brian Dorrington said in an email the Bradley Center’s team spoke with members of Marquette’s Department of Athletics about the incident.

“(The security team) informed us that the sign was beyond the permissible size and the group was asked to check it in to be retrieved following the game, and at no point was the group asked to leave,” Dorrington said.

Although the incident did not directly involve Marquette employees, Martinez said it should be a call of action to the university.

“It’s a banner that’s calling attention to the current racial situation that we have in the U.S.,” Martinez said. “People will repute ‘Black & Brown Lives Matter’ by saying ‘All Lives Matter.’ All lives matter at all times, but we’re saying that there’s a certain population, based on their skin color, that’s attacked and targeted more.”

Pourier said she and the others tried to start a “black lives matter” chant during Saturday’s basketball game.

“The silence that we received while chanting ‘black lives matter’ was in itself very violent,” Pourier said. “It was interesting that we were being entertained through a sports game mostly done by black men but those students weren’t willing to chant ‘black lives matter.'”

Martinez said money is an issue when it comes to funding resources for people of color on campus.

“We’re definitely not going to say Marquette doesn’t offer any resources geared towards a more welcoming environment,” Martinez said. “The Center for Intercultural Engagement needs a lot more resources. The center has given a safe haven to a lot of students and stopped them from transferring. At the same time, it’s not getting enough resources to be as effective as it can be.”