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Gainesville Community Rallies To Support Missouri Students

(emailed author to get caption) Edwin Exaus / WUFT News
(emailed author to get caption) Edwin Exaus / WUFT News

This Veterans Day was about more than just honoring those who served in the United States Armed Forces.

University of Florida students and members of the Gainesville community joined the Gator Chapter of NAACP to chant and sing songs in support of students 1,100 miles away at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

The University of Missouri has been dealing with a series of protests due to cases of persistent racism—involving racial slurs aimed at Missouri’s student body president—and the lack of administration taking the complaints seriously.

Dressed in black from head-to-toe with their arms intertwined, a group of approximately 75 people gathered in Turlington Plaza late Wednesday evening.    

“We wanted to organize this event to show that, as students at a predominately white institution, there is a community. A black community, and that [Missouri students] have support and someone cares,” said Heather Jackson, UF’s NAACP Political Action Co-Chair. Approximately 60 percent of undergraduates are white, according to data on the university's Office of Institutional Planning and Research.

 “We will rally for them even when local law enforcement or their own institution may not be able to support them." 

The mission of the UF NAACP is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights for all people and to eliminate race-based discrimination, according to its website

Wednesday evening the organization took on the unheard voices of black students at Missouri.

“I think [what’s happening at] the University of Missouri is not an anomaly, so unfortunately it’s something that continues to happen across the nation,” said UF’s Student Government President Joselin Padron-Rasines.    

“We like to think it's Missouri. It’s not Florida, it's up in the north," Padron-Rasines said. "But we don’t realize that this happens every day across the nation.” 

Phillip Wells, UF Black Student Union President, said it's "shocking" things like this occur in 2015. “It seems as if it were 50 years ago that similar things were happening—it’s almost disheartening, but I am not surprised.”

What’s next for the University of Missouri is yet to be determined, but UF student organizations such as the Black Student Union, Student Government, NAACP and the Dream Defenders plan on supporting any efforts.

“Not only do black lives matter, but also we believe in the message of the new revolution for progress is ‘justice or else,’" Jackson said. “And tonight this was the 'or else.'”

Edwin is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.