Troy University students walked across campus together on Monday, duct tape over their mouths and signs in their hands.
This silent protest made its way through the Trojan Center, the Trojan Dining Hall, the campus library, the Quad and even a couple of classrooms, according to organizer William Jackson.
“I organized the protest when I saw the racial controversy that was occurring at Mizzou,” said Jackson, a junior political science major from Auburn. “I’m extremely passionate about equality, so I had to show that I stood with the students who felt as though their freedom was being imposed upon.”
Jackson, who called the event a “peaceful demonstration,” was inspired to act after the incidents that occurred at the University of Missouri last week.
Racial slurs and threats were made anonymously via the social media app Yik Yak, ultimately leading to two arrests and protests on that campus and across the country.
“The purpose was to get a reaction and, if it made people uncomfortable, hopefully change will occur,” Jackson said. “It was about being the change that I wanted to see around me.”
“I decided to participate to actually stand for something, because if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything,” said Isaac Jennings, a junior sport management major from Sylacauga and a participant in the demonstration. “I also wanted to show support for my friend William Jackson and stand in unity with African-American and Caucasian students at the University of Missouri who are fighting for change against racial issues that are raising tension.”
“I think what we did as a group yesterday brings us a step closer to unifying our community,” said Jason Iles, a senior sociology major from Long Beach, California. “If we can continue getting more individuals involved, there would be nothing we cannot do as a people.”
The group consisted of over a dozen individuals, most holding signs to convey their messages with their mouths taped shut.
The posters included the messages, “United we stand, divided we fall,” “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” and “We stand with Mizzou.”
They walked around campus, stopping to allow other students to read the signs, and then moving on. With the permission from some professors, they entered classrooms as well.
“Some of the reactions I saw were a mixture of pure shock, pure approval or glances that were unsure how to feel,” Jackson said.
There was a variety of reactions as the group made its way across campus, according to the demonstrators.
“Some just ignored us, and others saw and took pictures or videos of the act,” Iles said. “Some of the students clapped for us briefly.”
“Some of the actions we got on campus were mixed feelings. People showed support by respecting what we did and actually tried to talk to us about the issue that was going on,” Jennings said. “But you also had those who turned their heads away when they saw the silent protest like they didn’t want to stand in unity.
“And that simply says that we have issues of our own here on the campus of Troy University that is so diverse in culture but yet so separated on many levels.”
The day ended as quietly as it had begun.
“I felt compelled to take up the cause because too many people want to say things against racism but are either too scared or don’t know how to do it,” Jackson said. “We decided to be that voice today. We decided to speak with our silence and our signs.”