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Students fill Buntrock Commons to protest racism at St. Olaf

On April 29, a black St. Olaf student found a note on the windshield of their car parked outside Skoglund Center that read “I am so glad that you are leaving soon. One less n*gger that this school has to deal with. You have spoken up too much. You will change nothing. Shut up or I will shut you up.” The note was typed on a blank sheet of paper. This is the seventh reported act of hate speech on St. Olaf’s campus during the 2016-17 academic year and the second reported message targeting a specific student.

In response, protesters began to gather outside the cafeteria at approximately 5 p.m., creating a blockade to prevent students from entering. Organizers of the protest went to Rolvaag Memorial Library and Stav Hall to invite students to join the blockade.

At approximately 6 p.m., Public Safety officers arrived at the entrance to Stav Hall to clear a path for students on their way to dinner, but protesters refused to move. The officers quickly stopped their efforts, but remained near Stav Hall. Students soon moved to block off entrances to the Cage and then the Lion’s Pause. Individual students addressed the group by leading chants or sharing responses to racism on the St. Olaf campus, in connection to personal experiences and institutional systems.

Amid the protesting of students and faculty, multiple news crews arrived to cover the protest – including FOX9, WCCO, KSTP and Northfield News – after students emailed, messaged and called the news outlets. Many students also live streamed and posted the event, spreading the word to alumni and the greater community about the protest. KSTO, St. Olaf’s student run radio station, broadcast the entire protest.

As the protest continued, students cancelled activities and productions that were scheduled to take place, including INBLACK and International Food Night. Students from Carleton as well as St. Olaf alumni arrived to speak and observe. Student EMTs were on-hand to assist protesters and the Lion’s Pause passed out free pizzas and beverages. Other students made trips to the grocery store and bought supplies using money donated by protesters.

Around 9:30 p.m. St. Olaf President David Anderson ’74, Assistant to the President for Institutional Diversity Bruce King and Vice President for Student Life Greg Kneser arrived at Buntrock to address the crowd. After giving some initial statements, Anderson and King fielded questions from protesters.

After Anderson and King gave the microphone back to the students, one of the event organizers encouraged all students to spend the night in the building. Currently there is a planned sit-in at Tomson Hall on Monday, May 1 along with an imperative to skip all classes. A town hall meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 2 in Boe Chapel from 3:05 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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