A group of students marched through campus Saturday morning to show prospective students a different side of MU.
“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for visiting the real Mizzou and hearing the true story of what it’s like to be a person of color at this institution of higher learning,” a Concerned Student 1950 protester said at The MARK on 5th Street on Saturday morning.
Concerned Student 1950 scheduled the demonstration to coincide with Meet Mizzou Day, a day intended for prospective students and parents to learn more about the university by taking a tour of campus and attending sessions that discuss student life and academics.
Concerned Student 1950 has been camping out for six days in support of graduate student Jonathan Butler who’s been on a hunger strike. Both have called from the removal UM System President Tim Wolfe, who angered students Friday evening with his definition of systematic oppression.
“Systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success,” he said.
During Saturday’s march, the protesters stopped at different locations around campus, including Plaza 900, the Rollins and Mark Twain dining halls, and the Reynolds Alumni Center.
“We couldn’t let you leave without hearing the real truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” the leading protester said.
As protesters marched between each destination, they chanted: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Several protesters raised their fists and said “ashe,” a word commonly said during Kwanzaa, and others responded with “power.”
“They think it’s a joke. They think it’s a game,” demonstrators chanted back and forth.
The start of each demonstration mirrored Tour Team’s greeting to students.
“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the real MU,” one participant said in the alumni center. “We are your Concerned Student 1950 tour guide team, and we are going to tell you all about what’s really going on here at the University of Missouri.”
The protesters then spoke to a group gathered for leadership training through the Griffiths Leadership Society for Women.
At each stop, demonstrators took turns speaking of recent events dating back more than five years.
“Feb. 25, 2010: Cotton balls were thrown on the lawn in front of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center.”
“Feb. 18, 2011: The n-word was spray painted outside of Hatch and Schurz halls.”
“Dec. 2, 2014: Anonymous attackers on Yik Yak threatened to burn down the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center.”
“Our home away from home,” demonstrators said in unison. The walls echoed with sound. Onlookers remained quiet.
“Sept. 11, 2015: The MSA student body president Payton Head was called a nigger while walking on campus on a street you all might be familiar with, known as Hitt Street.”
“Oct. 5, 2015: The Legion of Black Collegians, the only black student government in the nation, the Homecoming Royalty Court, they were there. Myself, I was there. Guess where? Right here, on Traditions Plaza, when somebody had the audacity and the confidence-of-self that they could walk away from verbally abusing me and my family. Me and my family. Right here on this campus, right there.”
“Oct. 10, 2015: A group of students under the alias #ConcernedStudent1950 peacefully demonstrated to educate the masses on systematic (oppression) at Mizzou Homecoming. Students were then verbally and physically assaulted by spectators, and then the driver of UM System President Tim Wolfe by using a vehicle to hit protesters. Officers then used excessive force, excessive force, and threatened students with pepper spray.”
“Nov. 6, 2015,” a protester said.
Participants shouted phrases such as “yesterday” and “last night.”
“Two black female students, myself included, were called niggers by four white males while being recorded outside of the Rec. The Rec that I pay for. I can be smart. I can have a high GPA. I can do what you all want me to do, but at the end of the day, you still see us as just a bunch of niggers.”
After she finished speaking, the leading protester called out administration’s response to these incidents.
“If they were really handling the problem, would we be here right now?” he asked. “Racism lives at the University of Missouri, and -”
“So do we,” the whole group shouted.
“And we’re here to stay,” the leader said.
Another protester said that the demonstrations will continue until the protestors get equality.
“I’m telling you, today and every day after, we will interrupt every session, every door, until we get justice,” a protester said.
The group resumed their chants until their leader said, “And now back to your regularly scheduled, whitewashed program,” a comment met with applause from the spectators.
Outside the Alumni center, organizers gathered participants into a group huddle where the group thanked Jesus for support and protection.
Vanessa Vaughn-West, a 1999 MU graduate who was inside the alumni center when Concerned Student 1950 held their demonstration, approached the huddle.
“I was moved by the protest and presentation,” Vaughn-West said. “I didn’t have an awareness of the things that were happening on campus before. I wanted to acknowledge and respect and honor the emotion that I personally felt and the courage that the students had to stand up for injustices they’ve experienced.”
She commended the “professional and educational” way that the protesters worked to spread their message.
“If folks aren’t getting the message about the gravity and immediacy of things that need some attention, then I think this type of thing is important,” Vaughn West said.
Two men, a Muslim student and an exchange student from South Africa, also addressed the circle, speaking of the way they could relate to the situation.
“I just want to thank you on behalf of everybody,” said Mahir Khan, a Muslim graduate student and Columbia native. “I’m not a black student, but I’m feeling some of the same things that you are.”
The exchange student from South Africa told the group that he attended the demonstration because there was a similar movement in his home country and he could relate to it.
“I couldn’t lock myself in my room and pretend that nothing’s going on just because it’s not affecting me directly,” the student said. “I just wanted you to know that I’m spreading the word and educating others. You are not alone. I stand with you. I believe that no one is born racist, no one is born hating. People learn to hate just as much as they learn to love. I want all the people who are here today to keep spreading the message of love. You are not alone.”