By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
On the 46th day of Dannielle Brown’s hunger strike last August protesting against Duquesne University’s investigation into her son’s death, Caitlyn Hunter writer for the Pittsburgh Current wrote:
“At this point, it should be frighteningly obvious to everyone that Dannielle Brown’s hunger strike reaches one of two conclusions — Duquesne University acquiesces to her demands or she dies.”
Already on Day 40, Brown looked unhealthy and she had many wondering when she was going to call of the whole thing, eat a sandwich and move on. Surely it would be soon, many thought.
They thought wrong.
On Thursday, Feb, 25, Brown reached the 236th day of her protest, an occasion she marked by being admitted to UPMC Hospital.
Emily Hannon, Brown’s assistant, told the Current Friday morning that Brown was suffering from severe migraine headaches, body aches and suffered a seizure.
“She’s doing better,” Hannon said. “Her migraines are starting to subside a bit.” But even this setback, Hanon said has not deterred Brown’s mission.
Brown began her hunger strike last July 4 and set up an encampment on Freedom Corner in the Hill District.
On October 4, 2018 football player and senior Duquesne University student JB Brown celebrated his 21st birthday by hanging with friends on campus. One of those friends offered him marijuana to which he took two puffs, and played video games. Between the time he left and returned to his room he told others that his stomach hurt. Video cameras in the elevator and in his dorm room hall show signs of him being physically distressed as the footage shows him dancing, moving erratically, skipping up and down the hallway, and coming in and out of his dorm room. Despite his roommate’s best efforts to calm JB down, one of Brottier Hall’s RA, a security guard, and two Duquesne Police officers were called to help with JB’s abnormal behavior.
What transpired next ended with JB falling sixteen flights out of a dorm window. Dannielle Brown was told by Duquesne authorities that her son took a chair and smashed a window before jumping. When she recovered his body she noted that JB’s face was perfectly preserved despite plummeting over 173 feet where only a small contusion on his forehead showed.
Brown and her supporters held actions all summer long. But as winter began to settle in, the holidays approached and the COVID-19 virus exploded to uncontrollable levels, Brown’s struggle seemed to fall out of the news spotlight. But just because a camera isn’t rolling or reporters aren’t shouting questions, doesn’t mean that Brown’s problem went away. Duquesne University hadn’t cooperated to a level of her liking, so while everyone else had turkey, mashed potatoes, ham and candy over that time, Brown continued to starver herself in the hopes it would bring her justice she says her son deserved.
Hannon said Brown hasn’t eaten any proteins, vegetables, fruits or even liquids like soup sine July 4, 2020. Instead, she keeps herself moving and somewhat energized by with sugary drinks like juice.As spring begins to roll around, it’s probably safe to assume that this won’t be Brown’s only trip to the hospital until she either gets justice for her son or dies of starvation.
Update, Feb. 28, 2021: On Sunday afternoon, Brown’s attorneys Paul Jubas and Max Petrunya:
In response to questions directed to us, in our capacity as the attorneys for Dannielle Brown, we can confirm the following:
First, Duquesne University has turned over to us its public safety files and video camera footage, relating to the incident in question. This information was provided by the University on November 2, 2020.
Second, the University has purchased body-worn cameras for its public safety officers.
Third, as requested, Duquesne’s Office of Public Safety has enhanced its de-escalation training for its officers, and added other enhanced training for its officers.
Finally, the University has worked collaboratively with us, as attorneys for Ms. Brown, for the last few months. The University agreed to mediation of all issues. Because that process was delayed due to COVID, the University agreed to engage in negotiations with us to resolve this matter. Those discussions have been ongoing for the past few weeks. Duquesne has been acting in good faith and we are hopeful of reaching a resolution soon.
Read more about Brown’s struggle in previous issues of the Pittsburgh Current: