Peaceful protest encourages conversation

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There was a rally held Monday in the Blum Student Union Lobby at noon over the viral Make America Great Again hat incident that happened in Blum Friday afternoon.

While some anticipated the rally to be confrontational, it was in actuality an attempt to get students speaking about what happened. The main components of the rally were signs set out on chairs and a speaker who discussed the video taken of the incident, including how to proceed and learn from the incident. There were rooms rented out in Spratt Hall to encourage conversation as well.

The video featured Missouri Western senior Dossou Ndiaye in upstairs Blum speaking to university police officers and officials about a high school student who had been wearing a MAGA hat. Since Friday, many comments have been made on the Facebook, some in extreme opposition to either side. The rally was intended to discuss the issues brought up by this video and bring a hashtag to life: #LetsTalkAboutIt.

Andrea Gordon, Missouri Western student and the director of Griffs Give Back, was the main speaker at the event. Gordon talked about how this is not an issue created by the video, but how the video shed light on the issue that was already in existence.

“I recognized that there was a positive opportunity that came out of the unfortunate situation of the video,” Gordon said.

When discussing the rally’s objectives, Gordon said it was to get people talking about the issue. “My whole message is to tell students to utilize their voice,” Gordon said.

As promised, the rally was attended by many university administrators, one of whom was Robert Vartabedian, president of the university.

The president said the event went well.

“I thought it was well organized and very direct and from the heart,” Vartabedian said. “I think there was a perspective that needed to be addressed, and this gave them a platform to express that.”

Ndiaye was in attendance and stood at the center of the rally for a portion of the time.

“A few students reached out to me and told me that they were organizing [the protest] and that it would be great if I joined it, and I think it was a good cause,” Ndiaye said.

When speaking to her after, she said that the rally was beneficial. “It was important that I come and say how grateful I am for them taking an initiative. It is a great way to start conversation and to push a positive multicultural environment for all of us Missouri students,” Ndiaye said.

Ndiaye said solidarity is something she’s kept in mind during this process.

“Solidarity trumps civility,” Ndiaye said. “Solidarity is: we’re all different, but we can all come together.”

At the end of her speech, Gordon asked people not to leave, but to stay and have open discussion about the topic. There was a large number of students who did stay longer to talk with one another.

As a follow-up to Monday’s rally, there was a listening session Monday at 5 p.m. held by Student Affairs in Blum 222-223.

The listening session was lead by Vartabedian and Vice President of Student Affairs Shana Meyer. Around 50 people attended and asked questions regarding how Missouri Western plans on handling future incidents and ways Missouri Western can foster more of a community feeling.

Brenae Tate is a freshman coming to Missouri Western. She went to the open forum to bring awareness to the threatening comments made against the Missouri Western student involved in the incident last Friday.

“The backlash is something that some people also need to think about, because this is real. It’s happening,” Tate said.

Tate said that despite the difficult topic, the open forum was necessary.

“It was definitely a conversation that needed to happen. It went smoother than most conversations, so I think it was a positive one,” Tate said.

Missouri Western student Michael Cullinane said adding a community garden would allow the campus community to get along.

“The garden idea came from when I was in boot camp, one of the things I liked doing was–when you are in boot camp–you have a black guy on your left and a white guy on your right or whatever, and you would just sweat together and do push ups. Obviously, there was no garden in boot camp, but you were working on a common goal. There were sometimes where you could do stuff like marlin spike in the navy. In the army, marines and air force, they have field exercises and drills that they do. We would go marching together and it was that common bond forged through a common activity for a common purpose, that was what united us and made us a band of brothers I feel,” Cullinane said.

Cullinane would like to see students from different religious clubs come together to work on the garden and have as many people working on it as possible.

“Mainly the idea of the garden to me is that, if people can get together and just work on something they can see how much more they have in common than what separates them,” Clullinane said.