Students protest in the face of hate at flag removal rally

Rachel E. Anderson
The Oxford Eagle

“Your heritage is hate,” chanted the crowd of outraged college students.

On Oct. 16, the University of Mississippi NAACP led the Take Down the Flag Rally in front of the Lyceum to gain support for removing the state flag from campus.

During the rally, members of the NAACP at the University of Mississippi spoke out against the state flag and the racism they believe it symbolizes. In their speeches, they demanded the Associated Student Body and university officials lower the flag.

“Students have organized and have spoken with very intentional language that symbols of white supremacy must be removed from this institution,” said Buka Okoye, president of the NAACP, in his speech. “We will overcome this trial as we have overcome many others.”

Students raising posters gathered alongside the NAACP to join in chants of “Fins up, flags down,” “Take it down,
ASB. All symbols of white supremacy,” and “Your heritage is hate.”

“The chant ‘Your heritage is hate’ is not meant to disrespect anyone’s family,” said said Tysianna “Ty” Marino, vice president of the University of Mississippi NAACP. “We recognize that people lost loved ones during the [Civil] War, and some are proud to know that they are related to men that stood up for what they believed in. I get that.

“It becomes an issue when one uses the idea of preserving their family legacy with iconography to justify taunting me with a history full of the oppression and persecution of my ancestors.”

Camille Walker, a senior public policy leadership student, further addressed heritage during the rally.

“I’m here today to tell you that heritage is not wound up in a piece of cloth,” Walker said. “Heritage is not a monument. Heritage is not names on a building. I know that because I don’t have any flags. I don’t have a monument. But I have heritage, and it lives inside of my heart…Listen to your heart, and do the right thing for all people.”

Once the rally concluded, a small group of men, women and children waving Confederate flags paraded into the Circle, opposing the state flag’s removal and supporting white supremacy. The group of six adults represented the League of the South and the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Students from the rally regrouped to nonviolently push the opposition group out of the Circle to a protected space in front of Fulton Chapel with their chanting.

In front of Fulton Chapel, the opposition group and the crowd of students from the rally confronted one another.

IMG_0251A woman and her son had been standing in front of Fulton Chapel. However, they quickly distinguished that they were not affiliated with the KKK and were only in opposition of removing the state flag. The woman claimed she did not believe that the current flag was racist, but she also expressed she did not oppose changing the flag.

The main opposition group had different opinions. They did not want to see the flag removed nor changed. They made claims that “the South will rise again” and all lives matter in response to students with Black Lives Matter posters and shirts. One man told a white student in the crowd he suffered from an identity crisis for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

In response to the opposition group, the student crowd turned around, turning their backs on racism and hate. They began their rally chants again, telling the ASB it would be siding with the KKK if they leave the flag flying.

Before university classes were dismissed, police escorted the opposition group to their vehicles. Students followed behind at a distance, continuing to chant and hold their posters high until the group exited campus.

No violence broke out at any point in the day.

The ASB voted to remove the state flag from campus Tuesday, Oct. 20.

“I believe the rally has surely put pressure on the Associated Student Body to really consider the way they will vote Tuesday,” Marino said. “They now have to question whether they actually want to be perceived as someone that has the same belief system as the KKK.

“Not only that, I believe the rally applied pressure to our university officials in the Lyceum. They have continuously voiced that they can’t make any moves without knowing there is a student consensus supporting the issue. Well, we gave them that.”

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