Current Date: Sun, 09 Mar 2014 21:18:36 -0400
More than 80 participants of the On the Wake of Emancipation Campaign lined up in the Pit on Monday to protest the mistreatment of minority students, faculty and staff on UNC's campus.
Participants, who were dressed head-to-toe in black clothing, congregated in the Pit just before noon and prepared their procession toward Saunders Hall and their final destination, South Building, as onlookers observed the crowd of demonstrators with curious eyes.
Monday's protest coincided with The Daily Tar Heel's decision to run a column by David Horowitz, creator of the controversial advertisement titled "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery Is a Bad Idea - and Racist Too."
Horowitz sent the advertisement to newspapers across the country late last month. Protests erupted at several campuses nationwide that chose to run the ad, including Duke University.
When Duke's campus newspaper, The Chronicle, ran the advertisement March 19, more than 100 students packed a campus lounge seeking to air complaints to The Chronicle's staff and campus administrators.
Horowitz's column in the DTH, which expressed ideas similar to those in the advertisement, prompted protest about institutional racism at UNC, including underpaid housekeepers and a lack of funding for the Office of Minority Affairs.
OWEC spokeswoman Monique Hall said the protest was not restricted to freedom of speech or Horowitz point of view. "The Horowitz article was more of a final straw," Hall said. "It pulled the nerve of the numerous issues we've had on this campus that attack students of color."
Many students not involved in OWEC also have been following the Horowitz controversy. Freshman Josh Huxford, who watched the Pit protest Monday, said he wants to hear all sides of the debate. "I think to be able to argue, you have to know the other side," he said. "The reparations idea is absurd, but I know my side ... I want to know what the other side is doing."
Some OWEC members said the DTH should not have run anything by Horowitz. "There are many manifestations of racism on this campus," said sophomore Fred Hashagen, a spokesman for OWEC. "The DTH's decision to run the (Horowitz) editorial is just one of them."
But DTH Editor Matt Dees said the presentation of the Horowitz editorial, rather than printing the ad itself, is not racist, but rather a freedom of expression. "We shouldn't just sweep somebody under the rug because some people think he is racist," Dees said. "Calling us racist for running someone's views is ludicrous."
Singing and clapping, protesters marched to Saunders Hall and lined up in front of the building named after the former grand-wizard of North Carolina's chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
They held signs with sarcastic quips such as "We Give Thanks," referring to Horowitz's assertion that blacks should be grateful for all the things whites have done for them since the time of slavery.
Protest leaders listed off injustices that deserved "thanks," namely the dispersion of black families and the theft of black culture during the period of slavery.
The protesters entered South Building and dropped off thank-you cards, along with a list of their demands for change, at the entrance of Chancellor James Moeser's office. Then they waited.
Then Provost Robert Shelton came out and addressed the crowd. He said he was pleased with the approach of the OWEC protesters and said he would look at the list of demands and plan a time to meet with the protesters.
Members of the OWEC said they used the protest both to promote awareness around campus and to show the administration that they are serious about pushing for important changes to such matters as the treatment of minority students. "The issue here is safety," Hall said. "Students of color want the University to make safety a priority."
OWEC members said they generally felt the protest was a success. But Hashagen was wary of the protest's immediate success in terms of administrative action. "Only time will tell whether or not anything will be done."
DTH Editor Matt Dees did not edit this story because he was quoted in it.
The University Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.