In this file photo from 2015, Lehigh President John Simon sits in his office in the Alumni Memorial Building. Simon sent an email out on May 31 to condemn racism following the killing of George Floyd. (Gaby Morera/B&W Photo)

Simon, Schiffer speak out on the killing of George Floyd

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Nearly one week after the murder of George Floyd — and after several nights of unrest across America — President John Simon sent an email to the Lehigh community this evening to lament racism and encourage the student body to work toward equality.

In the email, Simon said it is everyone’s responsibility to build a community where racism and discrimination are no longer tolerated.

“We must continue to affirm our shared responsibility to fight ignorance, model inclusive excellence and embrace the power of diversity,” the email said. 

Floyd, a black man, was murdered on May 25 by a white Minneapolis police officer. Floyd was handcuffed at the time of his death and is seen in video pleading with the officer — while other cops look on — that he couldn’t breathe while the officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck. The officer has since been charged with third degree murder and manslaughter.

Lehigh Police Chief Jason Schiffer also shared his thoughts with the community through Twitter on May 29 to express his disgust with the cops who took Floyd’s life.

Schiffer said every officer at the scene deserves to be held responsible for Floyd’s death.

“It should not take a policy to teach the police to treat another human being with dignity and respect,” Schiffer said in a tweet. “If you are a police officer and have to be trained and taught to respect human life above all things, please turn in your badge. You are the problem.”

Schiffer said he feels he has been silent for too long. He said people either take action against racist behavior or condone it, but there is no middle ground.

“I once again ask that we as a Lehigh community recommit to our shared values; reject hatred, bigotry and intolerance; and reflect on what each of us can do, large or small, and how we can come together with hope and determination to create a more just, actively inclusive and equitable community,” Simon said in the email.

Jason Schiffer (Courtesy of Lehigh University website)

He said Lehigh must “support the condemnation and repudiation of systemic discrimination, hate and intolerance and their violent manifestation.”

Protesters hit the streets of Bethlehem on May 30 to oppose police brutality and call out injustice for black Americans. The crowd, which remained peaceful, marched from the Rose Garden to City Hall and back. 

Elsewhere in the state, however, protests turned violent as reports of looting, fires and clashes with police came out of demonstrations in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Gov. Tom Wolf signed an emergency declaration and authorized the National Guard for Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg as needed to control crowds. 

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