University at Albany students are rallying tonight following an alleged assault of three black female students on a CDTA bus over the weekend.
Authorities say three women reported being assaulted during an argument on the No. 11 bus in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Albany Police obtained video from CDTA that reportedly shows there was a scuffle on board after the bus entered the upper Washington Avenue campus. That's when the three say a group of "10 or 12 white people" began punching and kicking them.
The story took off on social media when Asha Burwell, a junior from Long Island and student manager of the women's basketball team, tweeted "I just got jumped on a bus while people hit us and called us the ‘n’ word and NO ONE helped us."
Two of the three women were taken to Albany Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.
University police issued a statement Sunday, saying "Initial, eye-witness, information indicated the incident started on Western Avenue near Madison Avenue. A review of the video from the CDTA bus has established that the encounter began off campus with verbal exchanges, but that the physical confrontation took place after the bus had driven onto UAlbany’s Main Campus."
Burwell posted on social media that "the driver did nothing." Jonathan Scherzer is director of marketing at CDTA: "I know it's an ongoing investigation the Albany Police Department has going on in coordination with the university police department at the University at Albany, so we really can't comment on an ongoing investigation, although to say that we certainly want to make sure that we can provide any assistance to help clarify the situation. Whatever the events that transpired that night are, and make sure that everyone gets a full complete picture and story and understanding of what happened so that we can all move forward."
Burwell posted on social media that "SUNY police didn't seem concerned" and referred the incident to Albany Police. On social media she stated that when Albany Police showed up at her door to take a report, a female officer remarked that the dorm room smelled of marijuana, quote, "And that's when I knew she didn't even care about us."
According to various news accounts, Campus police have spoken with two passengers on the bus and have received videos taken by cell phone of the incident. UAlbany spokesman Karl Luntta says the investigation is still in its early stages. "The process requires us to be detailed and that takes time. We need to be thorough. We will be sharing with the university community on a regular basis. In the meantime we're also reminding students of services of services and resources here on the campus should they need to avail themselves of those resources including our office of diversity inclusion. Our Title IX office, our multi-cultural resource center, which supports students of all backgrounds and cultural identified. And our gender and sexuality resource center, which is a safe place for students to engage in dialogue and the issues around gender and sexuality on our campus."
Students are expected to begin assembling around 5 at the school's “small fountain,” ahead of the college's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, for a solidarity rally dubbed "Defend Black Girls UAlbany."
The bus incident has attracted the attention of the national #BlackLivesMatter movement. Angelica Clarke is executive director at the Albany Social Justice Center and a member of the new #BlackLivesMatter chapter: she says the group's Albany #BlackLivesMatter #TownHall scheduled for tonight has been pushed ahead to 6:30 p.m. at #PuntaCanaLounge to accomodate those who plan to attend the UAlbany rally.
"People can come out and just hear about what's going on and how to get involved and why BLM, why oganization here, versus the movement, and why it's important and how we can support each other."