9/11 BLM Protest

Junior Gabrielle Blake, an officer of Black United Students (BUS) at Kent State University, leads the protesters from Oscar Ritchie Hall to the rock while chanting on Sept. 11, 2020.

Editor’s note: This article contains language that may be offensive to some readers.

The second day of the Black Lives Matter peaceful protest took place Sept. 11 with hundreds of students protesting racism on campus.

The march was organized to protest racist messages that were left on Kent State’s rock on several occasions, as well as the response from the university.

“Hate speech has been written on the rock three times and every time [the university] just issues an apology statement and has not done anything about it,” said Alexandria Arline, a sophomore general business major.

Walking to the protest, it was easy to identify who was attending by the black attire. Some were wearing homemade t-shirts with “Black Lives Matter” or images of fists painted on them.

Many students held up signs; some were as simple as Sharpie on a piece of discarded cardboard, while others were carefully painted on poster board. One student was actively making a sign while standing in the crowd. A couple of students were holding huge “Black Lives Matter” flags that could barely fit between the arms of one person.

The signs displayed different messages, such as “Todd Diacon is a Coward,” “No Justice, No Peace,” and “Remove the Racists, Not the Rock.”

All the signs had the same message: Racism will not be tolerated at Kent State.

At 1:45 p.m., there were about 15 students spread out waiting for the protest to start. As more people arrived, small clumps of students dotted the K. By 2 p.m., the K was filled with students. When the march coordinators began speaking, all the different groups of students became one giant body gathered around to listen.

9/11 BLM Protest

Senior finance major Cameran Cunningham (left) and junior history major Gabrielle Blake (right) hold a moment of silence for 9/11 during the Black Lives Matter protest on Sept. 11, 2020. Cunningham is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, the first all-Black fraternity at Kent State.

The protest began by holding a moment of silence for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Despite the large size of the crowd, everyone was quiet when the speakers were talking, but also loud at the command to scream in unison. One of the popular chants repeated was “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”

An ASL translator was on hand close to the speakers.

Cameran Cunningham of Kappa Alpha Psi reinforced demands previously made by Black United Students and made a new demand for President Diacon to make a statement condemning hate speech.

Many students expressed their anger with Todd Diacon for not showing up to either of the protests to show support for the march. 

“Todd Diacon is a coward. Someone needs to call him out for it. He’s greedy and he only cares about profit. He doesn’t give a s--- about the people who go to this university. He and his whole administration got jelly spines,” senior communication studies major Julia Kelch said.

A chant exclaiming “Where’s Todd?” broke out through the crowd while students faced his office.

President of the Undergraduate Student Government Tiera Moore said, “[The student government] is just as upset as you guys about the situation. It’s ridiculous that this administration has continued to not take action on this.”

9/11 BLM Protest

Junior history major Gabrielle Blake chants “Say Their Names” around the rock during the Black Lives Matter protest on Sept. 11, 2020.

Students then marched from the K to Oscar Ritchie Hall. A jogger not involved in the march showed his support by raising his fist while jogging by.

At Oscar Ritchie Hall, the speakers mainly focused on encouraging students to register to vote and to vote in local and national elections.

“Our generation is not registered to vote at a high enough level to effect change. That needs to stop. We are the next generation. This is our life to live and if y'all wanna do something about it y’all need to start getting about it in the polls, too,” said Gabrielle Blake, director of political affairs and grievances for BUS.

Members of the Portage County NAACP also attended to speak on the importance of voting. They offered voter registration packets to anyone who is not yet registered to vote.

The march continued to the rock where the racist messages were painted over with “BLM.” The students created a human fence around the rock while the coordinators invited people from the crowd to speak.

9/11 BLM Protest

Dr. Geraldine Nelson, president of the Portage County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), speaks about the changes that have taken place in Portage County due to the Black Lives Matter protests on Sept. 11, 2020. The Portage County Commissioner's Office declared racism a public health crisis Friday morning.

While people spoke, passing cars honked from the road to show support for the protest.

Dozens of people spoke, including Kent State students, members of the student government, allies, alumni and the executive director of the B. Riley Sober house.

All the speakers provided different insights about their own experiences being racially profiled, being an ally, educating people about race, and making history.

“I want to build something that my predecessors will come back here and see that BUS built. This unity today, this energy, needs to be reciprocated for the rest of the semester and the rest of this year and until you graduate,” Blake said. 

The march concluded with the Black national anthem playing while the crowd held up their fists in support.

Megan Becker is a reporter. Contact her at mbecke17@kent.edu

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