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Students sit in Union to stand up against racism

Amanda Pierce / Lantern photographer

More than 300 Ohio State students and faculty organized a sit-in at the Ohio Union Friday afternoon to force the university to issue a hate crime alert.

The university issued an alert at about 4:30 p.m. Friday, notifying the OSU community of the vandalism incident at Hale Hall on Thursday.

This protest was organized just one day after the words “Long Live Zimmerman” were spray-painted on the west walls of Hale Hall, home of the Black Cultural Center on campus.

“We’re here to stop hate crimes,” said Corey Hamilton, a third-year public affairs and non-profit management. “Everyone here wants to have equal rights. Everyone wants to be included in the Ohio State experience.”

Hamilton said the sit-in is to stand up for those who weren’t able to make it or aren’t able to defend themselves and to enhance the dialogue of racism.

“Often times, that’s a dialogue that no one wants to touch or if they do touch it, it’s something that they want to briefly address but not wholeheartedly address,” he said.

Larry Hutson, a fifth-year in sociology, said they want the university to emphasize the diversity that the university “pushes so hard.”

“If it’s a core value of our school then we need the president of the school and the board who has the power to push that,” he said.

The sit-in began as a march from Hale Hall to the Longaberger Alumni House before settling at the Union.

Hutson said they want President E. Gordon Gee and members of the Board of Trustees to hear their demands.

“We’re here to sit in the union until we get our first demand met which is a hate crime alert sent out to the entire university,” he said.

Hamilton shared similar sentiments and said part of the mission of the sit-in is too also promote equality, not just toleration.

“We’re here to make a statement that equality is important,” he said. “Inclusion is important and the hate crimes that are currently going on and that have continued to go on must be stopped.”

Hamilton said everyone at the sit-in is there as a unified body, not only as African-Americans or minorities, but as all students of OSU.

A one-page memo titled “Student and Faculty Response to the Hale Center Hate Crime” that was distributed to those at the sit-in said they were outraged by the incident at Hale Hall and that the words “Long Live Zimmerman” were troubling.

In response to a number of hate crimes that have happened in the past two days, the memo said “these egregious episodes should not be accepted at an institution of higher learning such as The Ohio State University, and represent a type of thinking that permits racism to persist in our communities.”

While the protesters said in the memo they appreciate Gee’s response to Thursday’s hate crime, it’s still not enough as they “see the incident in a larger context of hatred.”

Hutson said it’s time for the university to live up to the standards it promotes.

“President Gee likes to stress we’re one university,” he said. “Well, we need to really be one university.”

Gee spoke to students at Hale Hall Thursday evening to address the issue.

“Do I think it was random? Absolutely not. I mean, this is the Hale Center, this is our center for African-American community … Hale himself was an iconic leader,” Gee said. “This was the kind of thing that he spoke out about and against. He was a great friend of mine and I know exactly how he would feel about this right now. And I hope on his behalf I’m expressing my concern to all of you also.”

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