Nearly a dozen pro-flag supporters from the International Keystone Knights entered campus following a University NAACP-sponsored rally to remove the state flag on campus.
Students who organized the rally said they expected opposition, and were prepared to meet it.
Minutes before the rally junior Dominique Scott sat on the steps of the Lyceum looking up at the state flag that waved limply above the trees of the Circle.
“I’m trying to be fearless as possible,” Scott said. “I’m not gonna lie, I’m absolutely terrified.”
Students and faculty members flooded into the Circle until a crowd of several hundred people stood to view the rally.
Participants lifted signs displaying messages such as, “This is our University, too,” “#whataboutus?,” “I am more than a flag” and “Straight outta Patience.”
Scott was the first speaker at the rally.
Scott told a story about her decision to come to the University. She said she was scared of Mississippi because of its history of violence and discrimination toward minorities. She said she found the University’s community to be accepting, however.
“With that community there also comes these symbols that surround me, that make me feel I don’t belong here,” Scott said.
Scott said holding onto these symbols of white supremacy and exclusion perpetuates the stereotypes that follow the University of Mississippi, despite the fact students at Ole Miss are united for progressive change.
Scott referenced the non-discrimination statement in the ASB constitution and urged ASB to pass the resolution.
“ASB when are you going to take a stance?” Scott said. “When are you going to be at the forefront of making this university available and safe for everyone?”
(Video by: Clara Turnage)
After the rally, pro-flag supporters holding state and Confederate flags from the International Keystone Knights chanted and held Confederate flags in front of Fulton Chapel.
“Black lives don’t matter,” pro-flag protester Shaun Winkler said in response to chants. “We are the blood of conquerers.”
On the steps Fulton Chapel, students and the pro-flag knights bantered. Their voices rose until University Police Department officers and University officials blocked off a free space between the two parties.
Winkler said the organization came to campus because members heard there was going to be a protest to take down the state flag. He said if the University were to do that, they would make a horrible mistake against the history of this state.
“They have the right to voice their opinion, as we have the right to voice our opinion,” Winkler said.
Winkler said the Confederate flag is no more a symbol of hate than the American flag.
“I feel that the Klu Klux clan is no more racist than the Black Lives Matter (movement),” Winkler said. “The Black Lives Matter is just as racist as the Klu Klux Klan could be.”
He said the swastika and KKK tattoos on his arms represent him as an individual. He said ever since the South Carolina shooting “black leftist communism” groups have started forming and he does not see them as productive.
Camille Walker, the second speaker at the rally, said she is from Mississippi and her heritage matters, too.
“Heritage is not wound up in a piece of cloth,” Walker said. “And I know. I don’t have any flags, I don’t have a monument.”
Walker said it is hard to recruit more black students when the University that claims to value the respect and dignity of each person flies a hate symbol.
“One day black students, brown students, red students, yellow students will walk on this campus and they will feel truly equal,” Walker said. “The path towards that day starts right now.”
The University sent out a press release which said, as a state institution, the university flies the flags representing our state and nation. However, as a university committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive campus for all students, they continue to join other leaders in Mississippi to encourage our government to change the state flag.
“We want our campus to reflect who we are in 2015: a vibrant, welcoming and diverse community that honestly examines our history as we move forward together,” Dean of Students Melinda Sutton said in the statement. “We commend our students for using the democratic process to engage in debate over civic issues.”
John Brahan, vice president of the Associated Student Body, said he appreciated the demonstration and the pressure that is being put on the ASB senate. Brahan said this rally shows students care about how ASB and its senate can help them. He said the turnout was enough to make an impact on senators.
“Together, we can make change on this campus,” Brahan said.
University student, Tira Faulkner said she did not know the rally was happening until she heard racial slurs from the flag supporters. Faulkner said she would not feel inferior because of her race, but she was still frightened.
“It honestly scares me, and it makes me feel uncomfortable here in my environment at Ole Miss,” Faulkner said. “It hurts.”
Shaun Winkler said to expect more flag supporters at the ASB senate meeting Tuesday.
“There could be 20 people, there could be 200 people,” Winkler said.
The Knights were escorted off campus by University police.
See NewsWatch 99’s coverage of the rally here: