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Police called after black Yale student fell asleep in common room

Lolade Siyonbola Image copyright Lolade Siyonbola
Image caption Lolade Siyonbola was taking a break from writing an essay when police were called

It seems the story has been told a hundred times before.

A white person sees a person of colour doing something they disagree with. They call the police. The videos of the police encounter show up on social media and soon it appears on news outlets across the world.

Lolade Siyonbola is a black postgraduate student at Yale University. She shares a common room with other students that live in the same hall of residence.

On 8 May, a white student living in the Ivy League university's hall of graduate studies saw Lolade napping on a sofa in the shared room.

She called the police.

"I had a paper I was working on in the common room," Lolade told the BBC. "I was working on it for much of the day, and I was exhausted so I thought I'd have a nap.

"This is normal, you know? People sleep there all the time.

"At 01:45 [local time], I hear someone come into the room. Then the lights come on. I hear someone say 'you're not supposed to be here'.

"The force with which she was saying it was very loud. She was yelling.

"She said she could see me clearly from the doorway. I'm just waking up, thinking 'what is happening'?

"She said 'I'm a resident here, you're not supposed to be sleeping here, you're not supposed to be here, I'm calling the police'."

Image copyright Lolade Siyonbola
Image caption Police officers ask Lolade questions in her Facebook Live video for over 15 minutes

'This is what happens in America'

Lolade had seen this happen before, so she instinctively knew what to do. She downloaded Facebook onto her phone.

"I installed it to record what I knew was going to happen," she said. "I always said to myself if I had a police encounter I'd record it on Facebook Live.

"For my safety, I thought that might be the wisest thing - to keep a record of it.

"I wanted to take any precaution I could."

As of Thursday, the video of the police encounter has been viewed more than a million times, with many comments on the video criticising the police response.

"I was just frustrated," Lolade said as she recalled the police reaction. "I thought, 'why am I being detained? Why am I being harassed?'

"I thought it was absolutely preposterous I was having this conversation with the police when all I was doing was sleeping.

"From my perspective and from the perspective of many others who watched the video, they didn't do the right thing.

"They were not sure that I should be there, because I'm a black woman at Yale.

"Even though I'm there with my laptop open writing a paper. Their bias is what determined how they proceeded.

"This is what happens in America. White people think they have licence to use the police as a weapon against people of colour. Police think they need to monitor people of colour.

"It's very common."

'It lacked compassion and lacked awareness'

When Yale officials were contacted for comment, they provided a statement which was sent to all postgraduate students at the university.

"Incidents like that of last night remind us of the continued work needed to make Yale a truly inclusive place," read a statement from Lynn Cooley, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

"I am committed to redoubling our efforts to build a supportive community... an essential part of that effort must be a commitment to mutual respect and an open dialogue."

But Lolade was not convinced by the response, calling it "very unfortunate".

"I thought it was very vague," she said. "It lacked compassion and lacked a full awareness of what was happening.

"There was another message I've seen. It was very specific about what was happening about racial bias, it was much better."

She was referring to a statement from Kimberley M Goff-Crews, Yale University's Vice President for Student Life.

"We still have so much more to do," said Ms Goff-Crews. "Dean Cooley and I will hold listening sessions with students in the coming days and months.

"We remain committed to quickly and appropriately addressing issues of racism and bias on campus."

Image copyright Lolade Siyonbola
Image caption Lolade is currently in Nigeria, visiting her father in Lagos for a family celebration

'The very fibre of these institutions needs to change'

Despite the international press attention that her Facebook videos have received, Lolade says she has avoided reading what has been written about her.

"It's been very overwhelming," she said. "I'm very grateful for the attention it's been getting.

"But I really shot the video for my own protection and my safety. This is just what happens to black people in America every day.

"If Yale wants to be a truly inclusive place, the very fibre of these institutions needs to change.

"I just think this is just a part of a much bigger problem that speaks to who America is as a country."

By Tom Gerken, UGC & Social News

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