Members of the university and Reno community gathered outside the Joe Crowley Student Union on Sunday Aug. 27, at a protest organized by Black Lives Matter in response to the appearance of a University of Nevada, Reno, student at a white supremacist rally on the University of Virginia campus.
According to the event’s Facebook page, around 450 people participated in the Black Lives Matter protest, holding signs and attending with their family and friends to show support.
The protest started with speeches from five different speakers and a performance by Ellen Valdez, who emceed the event. Valdez talked about the importance of the gathering and a need for the university to do more. She suggested creating a task force and a protocol to help document hate crimes.
“Reno has a racism problem and I think it’s time we face it head on and not ignore it anymore,” said Valdez.
The other speakers spoke about changing institutional racism, the history of civil rights and planning a revolution. They spoke about uniting the community against hate.
“Now is the time for us to come together and work together,” said Netty Stevens, one of the speakers at the protest and a UNR student.
After the speakers finished, Valdez performed an old slave hymn titled “Motherless Child.” She felt it reflected the same struggle and repression minorities face today as they did 200 years ago.
Members of Black Lives Matter then led the crowd down Virginia Street to Downtown Reno. They chanted different cheers as they marched, such as “Love not hate makes America great” and “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here”.
People stopped on the sidewalks and came out of their motel rooms to watch and film as the protest filed through downtown. Some even joined in as it passed.
The protest ended at Reno City Plaza in front of the “Believe” sign, where three more people spoke to the crowd and others performed.
The protesters were protected by Reno police escorts in cars and on motorcycles and bikes. University police and special security were also present at the first set of speeches in front of the JCSU.
The protest was peaceful in nature and there weren’t any counter-protesters at the event.
President of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada Noah Teixeira attended the protest with other members of ASUN to “show that their voice is being heard” by the university and “show support for the movement”.
“I think it’s important for students to protest because it shows activism and activism at the end of the day is what gets things done, especially on a college campus,” Teixeira said. “ASUN stands at the point that legally, yes it makes sense that [Cjvetanovic] can’t be kicked out of school, but morally what he did just doesn’t stand with us.”
Both incoming and current students marched alongside UNR alumni and members of Reno’s community. UNR alumna Estie Parica said it was encouraging to see so many students gathered before the beginning of the semester to fight for the cause.
“It’s cool that this is their first experience, and [it] shows them what the Reno community is really about,” said Paricia. “I think equality is important to our community, to our society and our greater goal as a human race.”
UNR received national attention after the student, Peter Cjvetanovic, was identified on social media as a participant in the Unite the Right rally that turned violent, killing one person and injuring 19. The university also received a lot of backlash after President Marc Johnson announced the university would not expel or fire Cjvetanovic.
At the Black Lives Matter protest, people in the audience cheered and clapped as speakers called for the university to take a stronger stance against white supremacy and to protect its minority students.
This is not the first public outcry for the university to take a stance. At the weekly ASUN Senate meeting, these thoughts were echoed as students said the university was too neutral in its position and called for a change in policy.
“The Biggest Little City is a progressive one that is marching towards the future and not moving backwards,” reads the event’s Facebook page.
Madeline Purdue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @madelinepurdue.