Students gather to march in solidarity with Charlottesville

The NAACP university chapter and Student Government organized the peaceful march.


(From left to right) Student body Governor Der’Resha Bastien, Jordan Bowles, Marek Madro and Khalia Moore hold the #WeStandWithCharlottesville banner at the beginning of the march. Photo by Alex Rodriguez | Photo Editor

Thomas Chiles, Features Editor

A crowd gathered Monday evening on the Boca campus Free Speech Lawn to condemn the violence and racism carried out by white nationalists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Charlottesville recently became the center of nationwide media coverage after white supremacists organized a “Unite the Right” rally on Aug. 11. The following day, a white supremacist ran his car into a group of counter-protesters walking to the rally site, killing one and injuring 19 others.

In response, the FAU NAACP chapter and Student Government members organized the march, which attracted a crowd of close to 100 people. Marchers held a banner reading #WeStandWithCharlottesville on the lawn outside the Social Science Building.

“We can not let these groups strike fear in us because we are stronger together than any obstacle that comes our way,” Jacqueline LaBayne said, political action chair of the NAACP chapter. “This is not the 1940s of the Nazi period or the 1960s of the rise of the KKK, this is 2017, the time for equality and justice for all.”

The crowd marched with the banner to the Nations Multipurpose Room in the Housing Building near Algonquin Hall.

Chants of “No justice, no peace” were led by Marcus Edwards, a senior majoring in health administration and second vice president of the NAACP chapter. He also led the crowd in singing verses of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the “Black American National Anthem.”

Once inside the Nations Multipurpose Room, students and faculty were asked to share their thoughts and reactions to Charlottesville.

Andrea Guzman Oliver, Student Affairs associate vice president, shared a personal story about when she was arrested and almost kicked out of school. At the time, she was protesting against the KKK’s right to speak at the University of Michigan.

“I didn’t understand what free speech really meant and I didn’t understand why the university had to permit a white supremacist group to speak on their campus,” she said. “So a group of us students thought we were doing the right thing by protesting. Only we didn’t do a peaceful protest like you guys.”

Oliver went on to praise FAU President John Kelly for releasing a statement that voiced strong opposition to the racism and bigotry that took place in Charlottesville.

“Universities and their surrounding communities have always been considered places for free speech and assembly, but racism, bigotry and violence will not be tolerated at FAU,” Oliver read, quoting President Kelly from his blog. “I strongly condemn the acts of hatred recently displayed in Charlottesville.”

Der’Resha Bastien, the Boca campus student body Governor, took the microphone urging students to take advantage of the available counseling services following events like Charlottesville.

“I want to encourage you all to stop by counseling and psychological services because a lot of us are really hurt inward about this,” Bastien said. “But some of us are not brave enough to step up and say something about it. So I’ll be the first to say it, I’m really hurt about it.”

The banner that was carried from the Free Speech Lawn to the Nations room was signed by those in attendance and will hang in the Student Union.

Check out our event gallery here.

Thomas Chiles is the features editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @thomas_iv.