PHOTO: Michael Donovan
RICHMOND, Va. — There was a demonstration held Wednesday afternoon at Virginia Commonwealth University, as a show of solidarity with the student movement at Missouri University.
Black student organizations, allies, and VCU administration gathered outside the James Cabell Branch library on the Monroe Park campus. According to participants, there was an open dialogue about race and recent events in Missouri.
Monday was a historic day west of the Mississippi, as university system president Tim Wolfe stepped down after protesters clamored for change. African-American students at Missouri have long complained of an inadequate response by university leaders in dealing with racism on the overwhelmingly white Columbia campus.
Those protests got two major jolts when student leader Jonathan Butler launched a hunger strike and the Missouri Tigers football team said it would not play until Wolfe stepped down.
The pressure worked. Wolfe’s resignation was followed just hours later by Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.
Students, faculty and staff converged on the Carnahan Quad after Wolfe’s announcement. They linked arms and swayed side to side, singing, “We Shall Overcome.”
Marshall Allen, a member of the protest group Concerned Student 1950, said the change is just starting.
“This is just a beginning in dismantling systems of oppression in higher education, specifically the UM system,” Allen said.
— Zach Sizemore (@Z_Sizemore) November 11, 2015
Here in Richmond, VCU students have been participating in #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations since the movement gained traction nationwide after the homicides of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. The group, in collaboration with other social justice movements, have held multiple protests on VCU campus and throughout the city.
Students held signs that read “MU is VCU” and “the fight is not over.”
The demonstration and dialogue continued for hours.
— Woolly (@bittercamparii) November 11, 2015
— Francesca Lyn (@francescalyn) November 11, 2015
Why Missouri launched a protest that toppled the administration
Protesters say racism at Mizzou — sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle — has simmered on campus for decades.
In 2010, white students scattered cotton balls outside the Black Culture Center.
In September, Student Body President Payton Head vented on Facebook about bigotry and anti-homosexual and anti-transgender attitudes after people riding in the back of a pickup truck screamed racial slurs at him.
In October, someone used feces to draw a swastika on the wall of a residence hall.
Even on Tuesday night, some reported incidents of threat or intimidation on campus.
“Im shaking and crying these white guys are in a monster blue pick up truck no license plate circling our car we almost couldnt get out,” one student tweeted.
“Only a minority knows what it feels like to be a minority on campus,” said a former football player, and added it may be hard for a white person to understand.
The University of Missouri’s Columbia campus has a population of 35,000 students. The undergraduate student body is about 79% white, and 8% African-American. The school’s faculty is also more than 70% white, with black representation of just over 3%, according to the university.
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