As the sun set in the distance, several hundred students gathered around, signs in hand, passion in heart, and let out booming cheers that echoed throughout the East Neighborhood — “Hate speech is not protected speech.”
Students and community members of all races marched silently from Brody Square to the field behind Akers Hall to protest the administration’s response to recent racists incidents on campus and demand change.
The event was organized by the Black Student Alliance, or BSA, and Iota Phi Theta fraternity to garner the attention of the administration following the outpouring of students at Tuesday night’s Stop Racism town hall meeting, BSA president and education senior Mario Lemons said.
Protestors began congregating outside Brody at 5 p.m.
and after an hour of organizing, they made their way through campus, past the Hannah Administration Building and through the CATA Bus Station — remaining silent throughout.
“Our signs and our standing in unity will speak more than anything we can say,” Lemons said. “We didn’t have to individually speak to (the administration) one-by-one.”
Demands included more cultural aides in the residence halls, cultural sensitivity classes — similar to the sexual assault awareness course all incoming freshman are required to take during orientation — and a free-standing multicultural center.
Telecommunication, information studies and media senior Lionel Alexander, who also is a member of Iota Phi Theta, compared the resources available to minority students on campus to electrical outlets in a house without power, and events such as the march are the spark the university needs to power these resources.
“Sometimes when things start to form, everybody is on fire … but that fire starts to die down as days go by,” he said. “Everybody still had that fire (Thursday).”
Another issue that created animosity amongst the protestors was a line in President Lou Anna K. Simon’s response email issued Tuesday afternoon prior to the town hall meeting, which read, “It should go without saying that the University supports free speech including the use of words that are offensive to most in our community.”
Speakers at the rally refuted this statement by saying the use of the racial epithet against a student in West Akers Hall was a threat and therefore should be reprimanded more strictly.
“What it seemed to be was more of a political move,” Lemons said. “It should be just as urgent as a notification the university puts out about a student getting their laptop stolen with three very general descriptions of black men.”
Communication junior Rayshawn Williams said he felt accomplished following the march.
“It felt like we were actually doing something,” he said. “We made a statement, and that’s what the whole thing was about.”
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