While Wesleyan University's president said he doesn't agree with being billed after the early December die-in protest that shut down a major intersection in Middletown and required extra police, the university has donated $10,000 to the city to thank officials for their public service.
That's after Middletown Mayor Daniel Drew sent a nearly $7,500 bill to Wesleyan to cover police overtime and additional police presence after a "Black Lives Matter" protest prompted the city to call in 46 officers as a precaution. About 300 Wesleyan students and Middletown residents, including Wesleyan President Michael Roth, participated in the protest in response to a national outcry fighting police brutality against people of color after incidents like the Eric Garner chokehold death.
The protest included an 11-minute die-in at the intersection of Main and Washington streets, with participants lying down in the intersection, to represent the 11 times Garner said he couldn't breathe before he was killed during an arrest attempt in New York.
Roth sent the $10,000 donation to Middletown Mayor Daniel Drew on Thursday and a letter responding to a bill from the city.
"First and foremost [sic] I want to express my gratitude for how the City handled the "Black Lives Matter" demonstration on December 8," Roth wrote in his letter to Drew. "Many of our students, faculty, and staff participated, as did other Middletown residents (including my wife and I). We agree, I'm certain, that the right to protest is fundamental to our democracy, as is the public's right to safety. The expert professional services provided by the Middletown Police Department during the demonstration together with the peaceful behavior of the protestors reinforces that these
two principles can co-exist."
He went on to say "we feel strongly that the right to protest should not come with a price tag."
"However, I did tell you in a phone conversation after the march that the University would like to show its appreciation for the city's efforts," Roth wrote. "I have enclosed a donation of $10,000 as an expression of the University's gratitude for the contributions throughout the year of Middletown's public servants. Good relations between the City and the University are important to both; we are bound economically (and in many other ways), and occasional gestures like this one are healthy. Wishing you and your family all the best for the holiday season."
After catching wind of the protest the city and police department closed the intersection for the duration of the protest so that no one would get hurt.
While city officials didn't object to the protest itself, the location at one of the city's busiest intersections not only blocked traffic but also prevented emergency vehicles from getting through.