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Students Peacefully Protest Racism, Bigotry at Meredith Statue

Hundreds of students gathered around the James Meredith statue at 3:30 p.m. today for a peaceful protest in support of civil rights. Leaders of the demonstration were adamant that the legacy of James Meredith will not be overshadowed by the racist actions of two people early Sunday morning.

Rally organizers brought poster board and markers so students could make signs to show support.
Rally organizers brought poster board and makers so students could make signs to show support.

The grassroots protest started this afternoon with a discussion in an African-American Studies class led by Professor Cooper Owens. Demonstration organizers, Jonece Dunigan and Ashley Cummins, said Owens lectured their class on past instances of bigotry on campus and the lack of action on the part of students.
Cummins said she became visibly upset after class, and Dunigan took a moment to console her and discuss why she was so emotional.
“It hurt my feelings to be associated with it,” Cummins said, explaining that as a white student, she’s uncomfortable with this show of racism on campus. Cummins is a senior and participant in the Teach Mississippi program. She said Dunigan, a senior in the Meek School of Journalism, was the big motivator for the rally. “Without her idea, none of this would have happened.”
Dunigan said she wanted to make a statement that students at Ole Miss won’t tolerate this disrespect. she is tired of people coming to Ole Miss and thinking they can disrespect the students.
“We, the students at this university, have the power,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in.”
Hundreds of students attended a rally this afternoon at the James Meredith statue behind the Lyceum.
Hundreds of students attended a rally this afternoon at the James Meredith statue behind the Lyceum.

Dunigan said the reward offered by the Alumni Association was unimportant to her and that officials may never catch the perpetrators.
Instead, she and other students are intent on creating an atmosphere that is intolerant of acts like this one.
Before and during the rally, a University Police officer stood astride his motorcycle just across a one-lane street from the statue, keeping a watchful eye.
The James Meredith statue was found with a noose around its neck and cloaked in a now-decommissioned Georgia state flag that bears the Confederate stars and bars. The James Meredith statue stands just between the J.D. Williams library and the iconic Lyceum.
“I was at a loss for words,” said Chassidy McKay, a 19-year-old freshman in nursing from Tunica, Miss., when asked about the incident.
McKay came along with friend Jazlyn Jones, a freshman education major from Southaven, MS. “I didn’t know that racism was still an issue because I’ve never dealt with it. It was shocking,” said
Student organizers pose with the James Meredith statue.
Student organizers, Dunigan and Cummins, pose with the James Meredith statue.

Jones echoed Dunigan’s sentiment that university officials should have been at the rally to speak out in support of the students, and against racism and bigotry.
University employees joined students to show their support. Deborah Smith, an accountant in the bursar’s office, said she has worked at the university for 32 years. When she came to Ole Miss as a freshman in 1977, there were few black students.
She said that racism, many times, is hidden, but that’s the case across America. She doesn’t believe that it’s worse at Ole Miss than in other areas of the country, but that these small incidents require action.
“It was really sad to me. To see this happening again and again and again,” she said. Smith said sensitivity training for incoming freshmen would be a good measure for the entire university.
The Meek School of Journalism and New Media published an article about Ole Miss’ need for changes for real diversity. To read that story, click here: https://olemissjournalism.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/ole-miss-needs-changes-for-real-diversity/
Students held their posters up at the James Meredith statue.
Students held their posters up at the James Meredith statue.

– Gretchen Stone, associate editor, HottyToddy.com, gretchen.stone@gmail.com

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