Students gather in solidarity on Monahan Plaza in St. Paul on September 28, 2021.

Students Lead Rally Against Racism

A student-led solidarity gathering drew St. Thomas community members to the heart of campus today to take a stand against racism and hate. 

Approximately 200 students, faculty and staff members joined the peaceful rally at the John P. Monahan Plaza outside Anderson Student Center (ASC). The event was planned by St. Thomas’ multicultural student organizations after posters and stickers referencing a known white supremacist group were found attached to doors and posts at various campus locations on Monday morning, Sept. 27. 

“I am so sorry for all of the first-years and all the people of color who have had to endure this, because this does not represent our true community,” senior Erick Castellanos said. “We’re only going to grow stronger from this.” 

In an email to the university community on Monday, the Diversity Action Response Team (DART) said the signs were removed in the morning and that St. Thomas Public Safety was working with St. Paul Police to investigate the incident. Public Safety reviewed video from 21 cameras as part of the investigation.

Yohuru Williams speaks as students gather in solidarity on Monahan Plaza.

The rally’s student planners invited several campus leaders to speak to the Tuesday event. Racial Justice Initiative founding director Dr. Yohuru Williams told the crowd – which steadily grew on the plaza as students and staff walked by on the sunny, warm afternoon – they were there to reclaim the space. 

“We write the end of this story. It begins today, it ends when you graduate. You are seeds, but you will be seeds of humanity. You will be seeds of justice. You will be seeds of change,” Williams said. “A cold front blew through here the other day with a message of hate, but the warm front’s here now, and it’s a message of change.” 

Other speakers – ranging from students and alumni, to Student Diversity and Inclusion Services leaders and President Julie Sullivan – urged attendees to support each other, use university resources and hold each other accountable to bring about change. 

“I want to say to every Black, brown, Indigenous and BIPOC student: You belong here. You matter,” sophomore Safiya Mohamed said. “You bring so much to this campus, to this university that is not acknowledged, unfortunately. You deserve to be here. You deserve to take up all the space that you choose to, and I want you to know that your experience, your perspective, your background and cultural identity … that is all an asset.” 

Student organizations planning this event included the African Nations Student Association, Asian Students in America, Black Empowerment Student Alliance, Desi Club, Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Achievement, Hmong United Students Association, Mixed Race Coalition, Diversity Activities Board, Muslim Student Association, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Somali Student Association, SDIS, Queer-Straight Alliance, and the Minority Students in Science Club.

Bias incidents on campus can be reported to Public Safety at (651) 962-5100 or via the university’s Bias Reporting Hotline.