The University of Michigan’s chapter of College Republicans painted the Rock Sunday night to send a message of solidarity to the minority groups that have been targeted by recent hate crimes on campus.
Two weeks ago, three Black students in West Quad Residence Hall had their door name tags vandalized with racial slurs. That same weekend, other racist graffiti were discovered on a downtown mural, and posters reading “Free Dylann Roof” were found throughout campus. In the weeks before that, anti-Latino sentiments were found painted on the Rock, and a local skate park was vandalized with racist and anti-Semitic graffiti.
Last week, several protests occurred throughout campus as a call to action and to draw attention to these events. Protesters blocked the C.C. Little bus station, flooded the room where a panel spoke about changing the name of the C.C. Little Science Building and sat with School of Public Health master’s candidate Dana Greene as he kneeled on the Diag for nearly 24 hours.
University President Mark Schlissel wrote in a statement that he supports Greene’s right to kneel.
"I share with many the belief that our nation does not always live up to its highest ideals, including the equal rights we hold dear," Schlissel wrote. "To me, the American Flag represents many things, including those very rights. I support (Greene's) right to engage in peaceful protest."
Like many other organizations on campus, the club paints the Rock every year, according to LSA junior Amanda Delekta, vice president of College Republicans. However, the group decided to be a little more purposeful with its paintbrushes this year, in light of recent campus incidents.
“This year with the rhetoric on campus and some of the hateful incidents that have occurred, we wanted to create a really clear message of what our group stands for and disassociate from some of the other groups that tend to get lumped in with us,” Delekta said. “We’re really just trying to create a clear message that College Republicans is going to be an active voice on this campus fighting for a really conservative message, but that being said, we don’t endorse any kind of hateful speech, nor are we ignoring our fellow community members that don’t feel welcome here right now.”
Delekta said the group isn’t looking for any specific response to what it painted — it just wants to make sure its message is heard.
“I think, going forward, we’re not looking for a response necessarily, we just want to show what we’re all about,” she said. “We just want to show what our values are and do our part to promote those in the community.”
LSA and Business sophomore Ice Ismail was one of the dozens who participated in the Take a Knee protest last Monday, sitting on the Diag for more than seven hours. While he appreciated the sentiment from College Republicans, he didn’t think the group was strong enough in its message.
“I was basically standing not just for the incidents that happened in West Quad and the incidents happening against, but I was standing against racism and discrimination that has been happening all over campus … the minorities that have been discriminated against, especially Blacks and Arabs,” Ismail said. “I don’t think that a painting on the rock is something that resonates with how powerful the racist messages have been. I didn’t hear about this painting of the rock, but I definitely heard about the racist messages.”