NAACP flag rally held Friday
The Ole Miss chapter of the NAACP held a rally on Friday. The purpose of the rally was to push the ASB senate to vote in favor of a resolution that would call for the university to stop flying the Mississippi state flag on campus.
Hundreds of students of all races gathered by the flagpole in the circle on Friday afternoon, shouting “Take it down ASB. All symbols of white supremacy,” among other cheers against the very flag that was swaying in the fall breeze above their heads.
“I am really happy with the turnout. This is much bigger than I expected,” freshman student, and NAACP member Jaylon Martin said “ I am really happy that a lot of people came.”
Some students stood behind the makeshift stage in the middle of the gathering with signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “ This is our University too.”
After about ten minutes of various chants and other rallying cries, a number of students were given the opportunity to stand up voice their opinions in front of their fellow students and others.
“Heritage is not wound up in a piece of cloth, heritage is not names on a building.” One girl shouted to a roar of applause. “ I’m not here today to change your mind. I’m here to change your heart. Listen to your heart and do the right thing for all people.”
“We are here today for the purpose of improving this University,” another said.
“This isn’t just a symbol. This hurts us. It hurts a lot of students at this university, who have to walk to class every day and see this symbol of oppression and hate,” Allen Coon, a sophomore from Petal Ms, said.
Coon is also a member of the ASB senate, and actually helped author the resolution coming to the floor Tuesday evening, calling for the flag to be removed from campus.
After the rally was seemingly over, and the crowd was beginning to disperse, the opposition showed up.
A few men, two women, and two children came marching up to the circle carrying confederate flags, coming to protest in favor of keeping the the current state flag. These people claimed to be members of the International Keystone Knights chapter of the Klu Klux Klan, a white supremacist hate group that gained much of it’s membership during the civil rights era in the 1960’s. The members said Holly Spring Mississippi was their home.
The counter-protesters were not greeted warmly, as many of the students that attended the rally began to voice their displeasure with their presence. Campus police quickly intervened and escorted the Klansmen in front of Fulton Chapel, where they protested for approximately 20 minutes.
Things got a little heated during the this counter-protest, after many of the anti-flag protesters followed the Klansmen and shouted for them to leave.
“Black lives don’t matter,” one Klansmen said “Read your bible.”
“Ya’ll are so afraid of a flag,” another man, wearing a hat that read ‘White Power’ said. “We are secessionists.”
“Look at the group that came to protest to keep the flag up. You’ve got Nazi tattoos, KKK tattoos, one man has a hat that says white power,” Ralphael Patton, a senior student said “ The people that represent this flag, these are the things they say, this is the way they feel about the black population.”
The Klansmen and other pro-flag protesters were escorted to their cars and off of campus by University police, ending all of the protesting for the day.
Whichever way the senate votes, there is expected to be backlash either way, but students in support of taking down the flag are confident for a victory.
“I feel very confident about it frankly. Of course there is going to be a lot of opposition. It is something feel strongly about on both sides,” Coon said “But I think our senate is beginning to realize this is something that we can’t allow on our campus anymore. It’s hindering our progress.”
When asked what the reaction would be if the senate voted to take down the flag, the message was clear. It would be a happy day for the campus, but also just a first step in the right direction.
“I would be ecstatic, and then I would not be,” Martin said “I would then realize that I have so much more to go. My end goal is not this flag getting taken down. My end goal is the equality of my people.”
“Gratefulness. It would just be a huge blessing,” Patton said “ Once that comes down, we’re gonna move forward and just take it step by step.”
The vote will happen at an open meeting in which the public are welcome on Tuesday night at 7 pm in Bryant hall room 209.