Police called on black Yale student sleeping in her dorm area

A white Yale student called police on a black graduate student who was found sleeping in her dorm. University officers then questioned her for nearly 20 minutes.


The black student, Lolade Siyonbola, posted two videos of the encounter to Facebook, where they have been widely viewed and drawn thousands of comments.

"I deserve to be here. I pay tuition like everybody else," an annoyed Siyonbola told responding officers in one video after they asked for her ID. "I'm not going to justify my existence here."

The incident is one of several in recent weeks in which police have been called on people of color for seemingly harmless acts. In one of the most recent, three black women were detained while leaving their California Airbnb after a neighbor called police, thinking they were burglars. Last month two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia after a manager called 911 on them because they didn't order anything.

According to Siyonbola, she was working on a paper in the Hall of Graduate Studies when she fell asleep in a common room. Another female student came in, turned on the lights and told her, "You're not supposed to be sleeping here. I'm going to call the police."

Siyonbola pulled out her phone and recorded 54 seconds of a hallway encounter with the unidentified student, who told her, "I have every right to call the police. You cannot sleep in that room."

After two white police officers arrived and began questioning her in a stairwell, Siyonbola posted 17 minutes of their encounter to Facebook Live.

When Siyonbola asked them about the complaint, one officer said, "She called us (and) said there's somebody who appeared they weren't ... where they were supposed to be."

The 34-year-old grad student in African studies unlocked her dorm-room door in front of police to show that she lived there, but they still asked for her ID. "You're in a Yale building and we need to make sure that you belong here," the other officer told her.

Eventually two more officers arrived. After some confusion about Siyonbola's ID -- her name did not match the name in a student database -- the police told her she was free to go.

Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart said the issue was that the name on Siyonbola's ID card was her preferred name, so it did not exactly match her name in university records.

The officers in the dorm admonished the student who called police, saying Siyonbola had every right to be present, according to Kimberly Goff-Crews, Yale's vice president for Student Life.

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