As neo-Confederate activists arrived on campus, counterprotesters with signs began chanting, “Black presence, black power,” “We will not be quiet” and “Your heritage is hate.”
Despite the possibility of severe weather, approximately 50 counterprotesters gathered around the Circle in the middle of the Ole Miss campus Saturday afternoon. Some were students and community members, while others made trips from across the state to attend the rally.
Counterprotester and president of the Mississippi Rising Coalition Lea Campbell is no stranger to events of this kind or to the members of the Confederate 901 and the Hiwaymen. Campbell made a trip from the Mississippi coast in order to attend today’s protest.
“I’ve been on the front lines here in Mississippi fighting the state flag issue for about three years, so I’m very familiar with these groups,” Campbell said. “I’m familiar with what they stand for, and I’m committed to standing against what they stand for, wherever they show up, regardless of rain or shine.”
Campbell said she is staunchly against the presence of Confederate statues and the state flag because of the negative message she believes they send to marginalized students.
“These statues and the state flag represent white supremacy,” Campbell said. “White supremacy is an ideology and political system that oppresses not only black people but also other marginalized communities. This is a public institution, and it’s a diverse student body. They deserve a campus that is safe and equitable for every student.”
The counterprotesters were already on campus when the pro-Confederate groups arrived. The protests lasted on campus from 2:30-3:30 p.m. without any injuries or violence, according to UPD Chief Ray Hawkins.
Saturday’s counterprotests came after senior marketing major Will Pipes and the organizers of a planned counterprotest canceled in the days leading up to this weekend. Pipes worked with the university to organize a student-led counterprotest at the Jackson Avenue Center, but it ultimately didn’t happen because of concerns about safety and inclement weather.
Senior exercise science major Bumeccia Barnes wore a shirt with the Huey P. Newton quote “Fight Back” and attended the counterprotest today with her sister to stand against what they see as hate and express their refusal to be silenced or frightened by the pro-Confederate activists.
“The reason for us being here is because of this whole silent thing,” Barnes said. “You know, (the University Police Department) said to avoid these areas. Why should we have to be silent? There’s this quote that says to remain silent is to be complicit with this evil.”
Senior English major Destany Bouldin admitted that she was worried when she heard the news about the pro-Confederate activists organizing on campus, but, like Barnes and Campbell, she felt that she had to make a statement.
“It’s important for me to be here, first of all, because this is history in the making,” Bouldin said. “Also, my daddy said that if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. So, it’s important for me to be here to witness this and be heard, especially as a black woman.”
The counterprotesters chanted, sang and thrust their signs higher into the air as the Confederate 901 and Hiwaymen were escorted off of campus at the end of the rally, and many were happy with the outcome of the counterprotest.
“I think it was awesome,” Campbell said. “I’m super proud of the students here that came out today despite the 70-percent chance of thunderstorms, despite the police escorting the Confederates. I’m super proud. Our side outnumbered their side; they showed their passion and their principles. I couldn’t be prouder.”
One counterprotester was arrested by UPD near the intersection of University Avenue and Grove Loop.
“We had one situation where we had to make an arrest of someone who failed to comply with directions that we were giving them,” Hawkins said. “But that was the only reported incident that we had today.”
Check out our full coverage of the weekend protests here.