Campus demonstration ends at Loftin’s doorstep

MU4MikeBrown promoted the event with #WEBACK.

The words ran together as rain splattered on the paper posters laid down in front of the chancellor’s house.

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin did not come out to greet the demonstrators gathered at his front door Thursday night. A light did not turn on either as the students let out a war cry to end a roughly two-hour march. As the protest wrapped up, organizers called on those in attendance to continue the fight.

The march, organized by MU4MikeBrown, began at Cornell Hall. Students then made their way through Greektown. MU4MikeBrown would not speak to The Maneater for this story.

While organizers did not explicitly say that Thursday’s march was in response to recent events surrounding the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma, the fraternity was mentioned during a chant.

“SAE men,” an organizer yelled through a megaphone. “We got to fight back,” the crowd responded.

In addition, the protesters stopped in front of FarmHouse and other Greek chapters, chanting, “Back up, back up, we want freedom, freedom. All these racist-ass Greeks, we don’t need them, need them.”

At the start of the night, organizers said the march was to celebrate blackness, to spread awareness for other identities and to speak out against violence toward women and people of color.

“No more rape in our community, no more,” was a frequent refrain during the march.

Word of the event spread via social media and MU4MikeBrown promoted it with #WEBACK.

The march was the first major event of the semester for the organization, which was started last semester in response to the killing of Michael Brown by former police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014. Despite the rain, about 30 people marched from start to finish.

The protest attracted its fair share of attention. Members of the Greek community watched the protest in near-silence from the sidewalk, front porches, upper decks or inside the houses. Not everyone stood idly by. Three women from Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority offered candy to the protesters, who thanked them for the treats.

Organizers stressed that the event was a nonviolent march. However, they had the demonstrators pair up before the march for safety. Demonstrators were urged to stay by their buddy during the march, and they were told to not engage with non-marchers.

During the protests, a “Black&Greek@MU” handle began trending on Yik Yak. Several posts mentioned National Pan-Hellenic Council chapters at MU. One Yak said, “There [sic] 6 historically black Greek chapters at MU. If your [sic] black & protesting you might wanna think about that.”

Director of Greek Life Janna Basler watched the protest and said she expected the non-reaction from Greek community members.

“I think it was a lot of different things,” Basler said. “Students are finding their voice. I think there are a lot of things we can all do from more conversations and understanding what inclusion is. We all have work to do, whether it’s Greek Life, whether it’s the university, whether it’s our students. We all have work to do.”

Basler was one of several campus administrators on hand. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs lent her support to the demonstrators, as well. Before the march, she said she wanted to make sure the students were safe.

At one point, Basler helped direct traffic as protesters gathered on the corner outside Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.

After two laps through Greektown, organizers decided to make an impromptu stop at Francis Quadrangle. The demonstrators walked silently with fists raised as they climbed the stairs to Chancellor Loftin’s home.

MU sophomore Kierra Otis wrapped up the night with a call to action to continue last semester’s efforts. MU administrators announced Wednesday that an open forum to discuss race relations will be held 5:30 p.m. March 17 in Keller Auditorium.

“It’s our duty to fight for our freedom,” organizers said to end the night.

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