Column: Russian trolls should not be able to delegitimize 2015 protests

The 2015 protests came about because students wanted change, not because Russia wanted Trump in the White House.
Protesters during the #ConcernedStudent1950 demonstration. Maneater file photo

Tatyana Monnay is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.

Before working its way up to meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Russia made some practice shots in the 2015 MU protests, which eventually resulted in the resignation of former UM System President Tim Wolfe.

After Wolfe’s resignation, many feared the potential violent backlash from the white community in Columbia. This was due to the real threat from then-Missouri University of Science and Technology student Hunter Park, who stated on Yik Yak that he would “shoot every black person” he saw.

Fear was amplified by a post from a now-suspended Twitter account that read, “The cops are marching with the KKK! They beat up my little brother! Watch out!” The tweet included a photo of a black child with a bruised face and the hashtag #PrayForMizzou.

The crazy thing about the KKK scare is that I remember it quite clearly. This false claim reached its way across social media platforms and made its way onto Tumblr. I remember hearing about the protests on CNN, discussing it with my parents and then going on my Tumblr to hear more about what was happening. I remember reading that the KKK was actually on campus. I completely believed it — and I know I was not the only one.

Russian trolls’ ultimate goals are to increase tensions and division within American communities, hoping it will eventually spread across the nation. They take the focus away from the actual issue and resolution to paint a picture that is much more chaotic in order to cause panic. The Russian trolls also claimed some of the protesters were violent, which was not true, as the protest in its entirety was peaceful.

Now that it’s clear Russia was somehow involved in the protests, I don’t want people to dismiss the protests or view them as being less legitimate in any way. Russia’s involvement was rooted in the desire to damage the perceptions of the leaders of the protests by making them seem less credible in the fact that they believed the false KKK accusation.The purpose and the goal behind the student protest group, Concerned Student 1950, were valid and true, and this movement does not deserve any skepticism from anyone.

The 2015 protests were about the racial discrimination and harassment students of color experienced on campus, which often went unnoticed and ignored by the MU administration, even when these instances were reported.

The scariest thing about the Russian involvement is that it was so believable, and it spread like wildfire. At the time of the protests, as a sophomore in high school, I was completely convinced that as a black student, I would not be safe on the MU campus.

After visiting MU and talking to students about what actually happened, however, I realized the protests were peaceful and the KKK did not come to campus. However, not all students were able to visit MU and hear the true story. If I thought that, imagine how many other students of color felt discouraged from applying to MU.

Shame on Russia for trying to capitalize off of students’ pain just for the purpose of creating more chaos and leaving lasting effects for students of color at MU and in Missouri. We should not allow the Russian interference to overshadow what the protests were really about: creating a safe space for students of color and a conducive environment for diversity.

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