The Collegian
Wednesday, October 21, 2020

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More than 100 students gather in protest of racist graffiti during men's basketball game

<p>Student protesters pose with a sign after leaving the arena during the University of Richmond men's basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. Janis Lee, junior (left); Nasir Aziz, senior; Aamina Ahmed, junior; Aleena Ahmed, first-year.&nbsp;</p>

Student protesters pose with a sign after leaving the arena during the University of Richmond men's basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. Janis Lee, junior (left); Nasir Aziz, senior; Aamina Ahmed, junior; Aleena Ahmed, first-year. 

Editor’s Note: The Collegian does not name victims of crime without their permission. 

More than 100 students joined in protest at a basketball game Saturday night after two more students woke up to racist epithets handwritten on their doors. 

The protesters assembled around 4 p.m. in front of the Robins Center, two hours before the Richmond Spiders men’s basketball team tipped off against the University of Dayton. 

The protesters dressed in all black, carrying signs that said, “We will be heard,” “Make racism wrong again” and “No room for hate.” 

First-year Gabriella Armon-Wickers helped organize the protest.

“[The protest is] just to show how we are all hurt by this, and not just the individual victims of these ... racist crimes,” she said. “And on top of that, to show the public that University of Richmond is not a perfect place for people of color.”

The protesters remained silent through the first half of the game, standing from their spots in the arena’s student section only for the national anthem, team introductions and halftime. 

After the halftime performance ended, the protesters chanted, “We want justice,” several times and then left the arena. 

Junior Rehan Imran Iqbal, a participant in the protest, said that the incidents of the last two days were attacks on racial minorities across the board. 

“I think the only thing which we can leave with is the slightest sliver of hope that maybe, maybe, when something like this repeats itself in the future — knock on wood — that people will have the strength to come out and speak out about it,” he said. “That feeling of not even thinking that you don’t have a voice — it’s worse because you know you have a voice, and it’s just that no one heard.”

Student protesters hold up signs during the University of Richmond men's basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. More than 100 students joined in protest at Saturday's game after two more students woke up to racist epithets handwritten on their doors. 

The University Police Department sent an email to the campus community shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday to “follow up” on University President Ronald A. Crutcher’s emailed statement sent to the community on Friday. 

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At the time of its email, URPD had been made aware of three incidents where there had been “vandalism of student nametags with possible intimidation with a racial and national origin bias,” the email read. 

Two of the incidents occurred in Marsh Hall. URPD is responding to all reports it receives, and as a result, police presence will increase in Marsh, according to the email. 

URPD denounced these acts of racism as “absolutely unacceptable and inconsistent with our values,” and encouraged community members to provide it with any information that could be relevant to its investigation. 

For Imran Iqbal, the most upsetting part of the protest was watching the way some of the other students in the student section responded to the protesters’ actions.

“Their lack of response speaks volumes about how downtrodden we are as a student group and how much progress we need to make,” Imran Iqbal said.  

The lack of education surrounding why racist incidents are a big deal is jarring, he said. 

UR Head Coach Chris Mooney and redshirt junior guard Nick Sherod both addressed the protest during the postgame press conference. Mooney respected the protesters’ right to voice their frustration and pain, he said. 

Sherod echoed this sentiment, commenting on the power of peaceful protests. 

“I think that some things are more important than basketball, and what happened on our campus is pretty unacceptable,” Sherod said. “I think sometimes people don’t want to intersect sports and social activities, but I don’t think that you can do that.”

The protesters had hoped their actions at the game would shed light on these instances of racism and show that no place is perfect, Armon-Wickers said. 

“If we’re going to be here and if we’re going to be part of a system that says that they care about us, we want it to be shown,” she said. “And I know that Dr. Crutcher is doing the most he can for right now, but it has to be shown. 

“The light has to be shown.”

Managing editors Lindsay Emery and Arrman Kyaw; news and content editor Katherine Schulte and news writer Jackie Llanos Hernandez contributed to reporting.

Contact editor-in-chief Jocelyn Grzeszczak at jocelyn.grzeszczak@richmond.edu. 

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