If not for the nearby beat of a student listening to rock music during lunch, the stage for the Black Lives Matter event Tuesday at Tarleton State University’s Thompson Student Center would have been virtually silent.
That was the idea.
For the second straight day, TSU students peacefully gathered outside the student center with tape over their mouths and holding signs with messages such as “We are all part of the great circle of life,” “Are we not one nation?” and “It’s OK to say that things are not OK.”
Renee Warner, a TSU senior who played an integral part in organizing the event, said the size of the group grew from Monday. There appeared to be approximately 50 students holding signs around one half of the Thompson Center circle.
“I think I see 20 new faces spread around the circle,” Warner said.
A third day for the silent protest is planned for Wednesday, at the same location, again from noon to 2 p.m.
Warner and others in attendance expressed a desire to show that protests against police brutality and racial injustice can remain peaceful and embrace all races.
“We’re trying to bring awareness that police brutality affects all colors,” Warner said. “We’re not out here just for black lives or just for white lives — it’s for everyone. We want to show people we are positive representatives of Black Lives Matter. We are not what people see on TV.”
Another organizer, 19-year-old junior TSU student Jaycie Green, said the event is a serious matter because “lives have been taken unfairly.”
James Smith, a 19-year-old sophomore student, may be short in stature but he had a huge message as he held his sign, bearing the message, “I am the voice that everybody hears but nobody listens.”
Smith, an education major at TSU, had a tremble in his voice when he said, “Basically I made the sign because it’s like Black Lives are always saying something, but they are never heard. Nobody acknowledges the black person. We are screaming that we are needing help.”
Although there were no confrontations observed Tuesday, there were some negative comments on social media. Warner said the worst thing she saw was a Twitter message that appeared to be a threat that someone might try running over a protester on the street.
Warner said she reported that to Dr. Laura Boren, TSU’s vice president of student life, who in turn informed TSU Chief of Police Matt Welch.
Breonna Patton, a TSU senior who also helped organize the event, said they hoped to smooth over some of the bad reputation that may have harmed the movement, while pointing out that police brutality is real.
“We’re trying to show we can be peaceful,” Patton said. “You don’t have to riot. We stand together as one.”
Boren said, “I am proud of our students for demonstrating on a topic that’s hard to think about, and yet very prominent in society.
“This is a great opportunity for our students to learn from each other and be aware of what’s happening around the world.”
Harry Battson, TSU’s assistant vice president for marketing and communications, said via email that, “As an institution of higher education, Tarleton State University supports the free expression of its students and encourages the discussion of ideas within the framework of civility, one of the university’s six core values.”