More than 140 people, including students from local high schools in Ann Arbor and Detroit, attended a march and rally Tuesday afternoon held by organizations including By Any Means Necessary, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality.
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Organizers said the Tuesday march had multiple purposes, including advocating the overturn of Proposal 2, the restoration of affirmative action, an increase in the enrollment of black, Latino/a and Native American students and in-state tuition and financial aid for immigrant students who were brought to the United States as children, according to a press release.
Protesters in the Diag chanted, “Black, Latino, Asian and White, by any means necessary, we will fight,” and held posters with slogans and flags from the represented high schools and the University.
University alum Kate Stenvig, a national organizer for BAMN, said regardless of the laws in place that ban affirmative action in Michigan, the University should be doing more to increase minority enrollment.
Since the passage of Proposal 2, minority enrollment at the University has declined. On Nov. 6, 2012 the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier decision that the initiative was unconstitutional; however, state Attorney General Bill Schuette appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. The court heard the case on Oct. 15.
University Police officers arrived at the Diag following a report of a large crowd. Police later said it was unclear whether the event had been scheduled with the University. Officers were present when students unexpectedly dispersed, running through the Diag, and later were investigating what caused the group to disperse.
A UMPD official added that the group’s presence was complicated by the fact that the organizations involved did not formally inform the University of their intent to demonstrate on the Diag, as many groups do.
LSA junior Merranda McLaughlin, who is currently running for LSA Student Government representative with the Defend Affirmative Action party, said though the police presence initially caused some of the students to disperse, the encouragement of other students kept the rally going.
“I think despite any hiccups or misunderstandings, the purpose of the march was evident,” McLaughlin said. “They were passionate and worked forward, despite any initial lost momentum.”
“This voice needs to be heard, because it's a problem that's only going to get worse if nothing is done,” McLaughlin added.
Two candidates for Rackham Student Government, Rae Scevers and Sam Molnar, are also running as part of the Defend Affirmative Action party.
The event occurred in the midst of the #BBUM Twitter campaign, initiated by the University’s Black Student Union, which drew national attention as it raised awareness for the issues and experiences of Black and other minority students at the University.
In 2012, 9.7 percent of University students were Black, Native Americans and Latinos. The 2012 graduating classes at the University had the lowest proportion of Black bachelor’s degree recipients since 1991.
Stenvig said that the University talks a lot about diversity, which prompts students to come to campus expecting to meet people with different backgrounds. She said this further alienates minority students.
“A lot of racist events that have happened on campus, especially the frat party theme, would not be happening if there were more minorities on campus,” Stenvig said. “People wouldn’t think they could get away with it.”
Davonna Swiot, a student at Cody High School in Detroit, said she heard about the event from organizers at her school and had seen posts about it on Instagram.
“I’m here in Ann Arbor to march for my rights to go to any college I want to go to,” Swiot said.
Members of BAMN from the University and local high schools also participated in a march and protest of the affirmative action ban in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 15.