Online threats heighten tensions at University of Missouri

COLUMBIA, Missouri (AP) — The University of Missouri said it has increased security and is investigating online threats after weeks of protests over racial tensions on campus culminated in the departure of two senior university officials.

A post Tuesday night on the college’s website said campus police are “aware of social media threats” and are investigating. It came after at least two users posted threats on the anonymous location-based messaging app Yik Yak.

One user threatened to “shoot every black person I see.”

Campus police Capt. Brian Weimer told The Associated Press additional officers were already on campus before the university learned of the threats.

A university spokesman couldn’t immediately be reached for further comment, but the school’s online emergency information center tweeted, “There is no immediate threat to campus.”

It has been a tumultuous week for the flagship campus of the University of Missouri system.

The student government president reported in September that people shouted racial slurs at him from a passing pickup truck, galvanizing the protest movement. A graduate student went on hunger strike to demand the resignation of university system President Tim Wolfe over his handling of racial complaints, and more than 30 members of the Missouri football team went on strike in his support.

Wolfe resigned Monday. Hours later, the top administrator of the Columbia campus, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, was forced out.

David Wallace, a spokesman for the student government group Missouri Students Association, said the group asked university officials to cancel classes Wednesday in light of the threats.

“It’s really disheartening and proves the point of why these protests and boycotts were necessary,” Gaby Rodriguez, a senior, said.

Some students, faculty and alumni have said the protests and top leaders’ resignations are the culmination of years of racial tension. The university has promised changes.

Chuck Henson, a black law professor and associate dean, was appointed Tuesday as the university’s first-ever interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity.

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