Ellie Park, Photography Editor

On Monday, April 22, about 10 Yale Police Department officers disrupted a Yale Gospel Choir rehearsal in the lobby of Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall. The rehearsal took place before the singing group performed at the pro-Palestine protest at the intersection of College and Grove streets. 

Police officers told the group that they were dispatched because they received a call about a protest in the building and asked the students to leave, according to three students in the choir who were present at the rehearsal. Upon learning that the group was a student choir conducting a rehearsal, police officers left the building, according to the students. The group moved to an auditorium, where they continued the rehearsal, and shortly after performed in front of the protest outside.

“I feel like it was very irresponsible,” said Zada Brown ’24, the vice president of Yale Gospel Choir. “It just says a lot about Yale, the way that they were just willing to automatically criminalize students and call the cops on us.”

The singing group was practicing two songs, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “This Little Light of Mine,” when police officers entered the building. 

Brown said that upon entering the building, YPD officers immediately approached the group and told them to leave the space without asking whether the group was a Yale-affiliated organization. According to Brown, police officers told students, “You can’t be doing this here. You have to do this with everyone else.” 

Two more Yale Gospel Choir members, who requested anonymity for safety concerns, corroborated Brown’s account.

It was not until one Yale Gospel Choir member clarified that the group was composed of Yale students that YPD officers began to ask questions, Brown said. She said that the police officers immediately eased up and told the group that “someone told [them] there was a protest here.” 

According to three members of the Yale Gospel Choir, only a few students passed by during the rehearsal, and no one else was present in the lobby. 

When the News initially reached out to a University spokesperson, she said that Yale Police officers were patrolling the building due to the protest occurring at the intersection. 

“Yale Police officers checked the building to confirm that unauthorized individuals were inside,” the University spokesperson said. “They then cleared anyone from the building who was not there for work or academic reasons.” 

Police officers left the building immediately upon confirming that the group members were Yale students, according to Brown.

When the News followed up with the University spokesperson on whether Yale administrators called the Yale Police to the building, as one student who was present at the scene suggested, she wrote that the University “has nothing further to add” to the previous response. 

All of the members in rehearsal were students of color, which shaped how they experienced this encounter with the police, they said. 

“At that point, all the people who were there were Black or BIPOC, and so it was pretty scary just because they immediately walked in and were just, like, ‘You have to leave,’ watching us,” said one Yale Gospel Choir member. “The fact that there was no attempt to ask us what we’re doing or even like, try to like, de-escalate the situation, initially, was pretty scary.” 

Brown said that gospel music has been used in civil rights protests throughout history, and Yale Gospel Choir wanted to stand in solidarity with “all the students that are being really brave,” protesting in support of Palestine. 

“As a Christian organization, we stand for love, we don’t stand for hate,” Brown said. “I think what we’ve seen happening in Palestine is 100 percent what we’re against.”

Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall is located at 1 Prospect St.

Yurii Stasiuk is a Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. He previously covered City Hall as a beat reporter. Originally from Kalush, Ukraine, he is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College majoring in History and Political Science.