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Students rally against hate speech

(EN Photo / Kim Smith)

What began as a class assignment evolved into a demonstration of sign-bearing students gathered on the library lawn on Thursday afternoon for the Soar Above Hate rally, an event to bring awareness to the recent hate speech incidents that have taken place on campus.
The rally included speeches by FGCU students and performances by freshman vocalist Ashley Almedia and local theatrical ethnography S(he) Will Fade as well as a march and the reading of a list of demands the class feels the university should meet.
The demands included required diversity and safe-zone training for faculty along with a required interracial communications class for all freshmen and transfer students.
“Our plan is to hopefully get a plan put on the docket for incoming freshmen,” said Anna Webster, one of the student organizers. “Basically, an interracial communications class, some type of interracial training so that you go through your next four years knowing how to communicate with other people the right way.”
The issues and demands will also be sent out to faculty and staff at a later time.
The event organizers are students taking the Rhetoric of Social Movements class taught by Margaret Hambrick. While she has taught a similar class in the past during her time at California State University, Long Beach, this is her first time teaching this class at FGCU. It’s also the first time the assignment has been done in this way at FGCU.
“They learned the theory behind social movements in this country, its history and the strategies they used that were successful and not as successful in dealing with social issues … and then, their job was to decide what they were going to protest,” Hambrick said.
The students discussed various issues and, in the end, decided to focus on hate speech, which they felt has been a relevant issue on campus this year, citing the series of Vanguard America flyers and the two incidents of racially-charged messages found on whiteboards on campus.
Hambrick’s students, however, were not the only people in attendance. Representatives from organizations like Showing Up for Racial Justice, Coalition of Black Organizational Leaders, Gay Straight Alliance, No Race No Hate, African Student Association and more all came out to show their support. Several professors also attended, including communication professor Amanda Parke, who addressed the crowd during a break in which audience members could come up and speak about their experiences with hate speech.
“The thing that I haven’t heard anybody mention yet … is the lack of response from our administration,” Parke said. “I think it’s important to speak about it, and I think it’s important that the administration hears it from you.”
Andrea Jarquin, a senior and 2017 Hall of Fame inductee, addressed the crowd gathered around Veterans Pavilion and offered some weighty words of encouragement.
“Although I have had success here, it has not come without demeaning and objectifying statements,” Jarquin said. “But, every struggle we go through, every hateful word we brush off and every protest that we attend makes our successes that much sweeter.”

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