The “Harlem Shake” school spirit video, filmed Friday on the steps of Sturm at 1 p.m., attracted almost 200 costume-clad students and 3 protesters who were escorted away from the event by campus safety after becoming confrontational over the use of Boone as the “official” mascot of DU.
Alex Hess filmed the video, which has received over 10,000 views on Youtube since Friday.
“It’s [the ‘Harlem Shake’] basically a viral video on YouTube of one person dancing for the first 15 seconds of a song called ‘Harlem Shake,’ and after the bass drops, it cuts to a scene of many people dancing crazy with funny costumes.”
Costumes included hot dog suits, banana suits and Gumby.
Hess, who is a sophomore mathematics major from Portland, Ore. and is involved with Hillel, helped organize the event after hearing ideas from several fellow students.
“After a few of the videos became viral on YouTube, students of all organizations began talking about it in classes and through social media like Facebook and Twitter about organizing it to happen at DU,” said Hess.
According to Hess, the event was not sponsored by any single club.
“The students of DU were the ones who had the idea,” said Hess. “This was simply an idea the students of DU wanted to do that was fun and spirited.”
The event was sponsored on Facebook and YouTube by Denver Boone, DU’s unofficial school mascot. Hess said he contacted the facilitators of the Boone Facebook page to help spread the word about the event.
“The goal was just to make a parody that all of DU could contribute in. Tons of people were talking about doing it, but no one set up a date or time,” said Hess. “So I contacted Boone via his Facebook page and asked if he could create the event, and create some hype for it, since he has over 3,000 Facebook friends at DU.
“So I really wouldn’t say I or Boone organized it, rather just got the word of mouth out about the timing so all of the DU students that wanted to participate had a set place and time to do it all at once.”
The beginning of the event was delayed by the presence of three DU Native Student Alliance (NSA) members, Jose Guerrero, a junior sociology major, Amanda Wilson, junior psychology major and Julia Bramante, junior chemistry major, who attended the event to protest the presentation of Boone as the DU mascot.
“The main cause of this was to bring up the fact that we should not be bringing Boone back into the picture when we are trying to move past him as our mascot,” said Wilson, who said that Boone “does not represent an inclusive campus climate.”
According to Wilson, the event was not an official NSA event, but that all three students were NSA members. The ultimate goal, according to Guerrero, was to appear in the video, not halt its production.
“We did not try to stop the video from being filmed, we just wanted to be in it,” said Guerrero. “We figured they would have let our point of view in the video since part of the DU community share this point of view, but instead we were asked to leave and then physically forced to leave.”
According to Guerrero, the three students were escorted away by Campus Safety officers from the protest and stopped from re-approaching the video after a confrontation between the participants and the protestors.
According to the DCS Daily Incident report, the students were escorted away after “interfering with the event” and becoming “confrontational.”
Guerrero said that while they tried to “reason with” the filmmakers and guards, the guards were “rude and disrespectful” and used “excess force” on the shoulders and arms of the students during the incident. Guerrero, Wilson and Bramante left of their own accord after being blocked from re-approaching by DCS officers.
DCS Public Information officer Sgt. Banet said the policy surrounding use of force in escorting students is use of “reasonable necessary force.”
Megan Pendley Pickett and Carl Johnson, director of student activities and executive director of campus life, respectively, said that DCS is alerted on events that are expected to draw large crowds, although they could not speak to the specific incident.
Hess said that their only request from the protestors was to move for the first scene of the video.
“We told them that once we filmed the first scene with just one person, they were more than welcome to come join in the second scene. Instead they refused to move away from the camera completely, and one member of the NSA even accused me of being a racist, which personally, being a Jew who has dealt with anti-Semitism in my life before and has worked hard to support all races and creeds, was a little disturbing and somewhat hurtful,” said Hess.
Guerrero said that the issue is centered on education about the Native student struggle.
“We watched the video and overall we thinks it depicts a fake image of the culture at the university. It ignores the struggle that our people have been through since the 1990’s when Boone was originally eradicated,” said Guerrero.
“We were really bothered by the amount of attention focused on Boone in the video. …This form of propaganda is the reason why a large proportion of the student body continues to ignore the racial symbolism that is attached to Boone and continue to support his existence.”