Violence mars vigil, tribute to slain Georgia Tech LGBT student

Hundreds of people gathered at Georgia Tech Plaza on Monday to remember Scout  Schultz, the 21-year-old leader of the campus Pride Alliance who was shot and killed by police late Saturday.

The half-hour candlelight vigil remained peaceful but when it ended, some members of the crowd stood and shouted – "shoot to kill," " we deserve better healthcare," "it was murder." They also questioned why campus police officers aren't armed with Tasers and called on the school to offer transgender student housing.

A group of about 50 people then marched from the vigil on their way to the site on 8th Street where a Georgia Tech police officer shot and killed Schultz. When the crowd – chanting and banging drums – reached the Georgia Tech police headquarters on Hemphill Avenue near Ferst Drive, a police cruiser was set on fire and some in the crowd scuffled with police.

Three people were arrested, including at least one Tech student, according to the AJC.

During the vigil, speakers offered praise for Schultz's advocacy for progressive issues and leadership of the campus LGBT group.

"It's nearly impossible to talk about Scout without mentioning how influential of an activist they were. They were very outspoken about their political stance and let everyone know how they could get involved whenever possible," said William Harrer, secretary of the Pride Alliance at Georgia Tech.

"From immigration policies to violence against trans people, Scout made sure that not only their voice was heard but also the voices of those oppressed," Harrer added.

Genny Kennedy, vice president of the Pride Alliance, credited Schultz with leading student organization while balancing a major in computer engineering and a minor in biomedical engineering.

"In truth, they were a natural born leader. On top of all that, they were so humble about all the feats they had completed. Throughout the time I spent with Scout, I've come to know them as the most charismatic and driven leader that I ever met and had the pleasure to work with," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said Schultz helped convince her to participate in her first-ever Pride parade, an event that led Kennedy to become an officer in the Pride Alliance.

"Through the pathways that Scout carved out by taking every opportunity to stand for what they felt was important, I was able to become so much closer to the leader that I've always wanted to be. Working under Scout has been an experience that I wouldn't trade for the world," Kennedy said.

Aby Parsons, director of Tech's LGBTQIA Research Center and advisor to Pride Alliance, said she and Schultz often butted heads on the pace of impacting social justice issues.

"It was through these spirited discussions and disagreements that we were able to learn from each other and grow in our advocacy. From working with Scout over the past three years as the Pride Alliance advisor, I came to appreciate deeply how our fight for queer and trans liberation must not come in the form of a single strategy but how each of us, regardless of our role, has a part to play in the kind of world we want to live in."

Schultz approached their work with the Pride Alliance with never-ending energy, Parsons said.

"Scout never rested. They never accepted that things had to stay as they were or that together we can't end white supremacy or homophobia or transphobia or any other kind of oppression. They believe in the power of individuals and communities to create transformation," Parsons said.

 

'Answering violence with violence not the answer'

 

The violence after the vigil has rocked the Midtown campus. The school issued a text alert about 9:30 p.m. on Monday warning students to stay indoors.

Two police officers suffered minor injuries during the scuffles with protesters, according to the AJC.

Three people were arrested and charged with inciting a riot and battery of an officer. They were identified by authorities as Vincent Castillenti, Jacob Wilson, and Cassandra Monden.

Schultz's family – who joined with their attorney earlier on Monday to question the shooting – appealed for an end to any violence surrounding Scout's death. Via the AJC:

“We ask that those who wish to protest Scout's death do so peacefully. Answering violence with violence is not the answer. Our goal is to work diligently to make positive change at Georgia Tech in an effort to ensure a safer campus for all students,” they said.  

“This is how we will truly honor Scout's life and legacy.”

On Tuesday, Tech students launched an online fundraising effort to help the two injured officers. Others set up tables on campus so students can write notes of support for campus police officers and Schultz.

Schultz was a fourth-year computer engineering major was from Lilburn and described themselves as “bisexual, nonbinary and intersex.” Schultz was shot once in the heart and died at Grady Memorial Hospital after a confrontation with campus police officers outside a dorm.

The GBI is investigating the police shooting. On Monday, the agency said Schultz instigated the confrontation with police by calling 911 and reporting a person armed with a knife and gun on campus. No gun was found and Schultz was carrying a utility tool with a small blade when officers found them. Via the AJC:

However, in a press conference earlier today, Scout’s parents questioned the use of lethal force to deal with a student having a mental breakdown and carrying what turned out to be a flip-open utility tool.

“Why did you have to shoot?” Bill Schultz asked at a news conference. “That’s the only question that matters right now. Why did you kill my son?”

The GBI said it found three suicide notes in Schultz's dorm room. Schultz suffered from several medical issues, including depression, and attempted suicide two years ago, Scout's mom Lynne Schultz told the AJC.

On Tuesday, Cathy Woolard – the first openly LGBT elected official in Georgia who is running for Atlanta mayor – called the shooting of Scout Schutz "entirely avoidable" and condemned the violence after the vigil.

The shooting of Scout Schultz was entirely avoidable. Campus police are equipped with pepper spray and should have employed this nonlethal method rather than opting to use deadly force. I expect a comprehensive independent review of this incident.

I condemn the violent actions taken by a handful of individuals of unknown affiliation. Atlanta has a rich history as a center for nonviolent civil disobedience and I believe that following in this tradition of peaceful protest and organizing is the most effective way to achieve the important goal of raising awareness of and putting an end to police killings.

That said, it is absolutely essential for us to realize that the vast majority of demonstrators were being peaceful. The community is faced with genuine grievances and they have a right to assemble and make their voices heard. To focus solely on the actions of lone agitators, many of whom did not appear to be part of the student body, masks the very real grief that the community is experiencing. Let’s not lose sight of the issue at hand, which is the unnecessary killing of a student by campus police. My condolences go out to the family and friends of Scout Schultz.