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Sunday, Jun 23, 2024
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Students and faculty gather for peaceful demonstration on Cruz Plaza

Temperatures are hot but heads are cool for protestors asking Mercer to do more.

A small crowd of students gathered on Cruz Plaza today, supported by faculty, to perform a "peaceful and educational" demonstration in solidarity with other students across America. The protest was organized by Tori Glazier '24, Matthew Simmerman '24 and Belle Hart '24 in order to ask once again for Mercer to respond, acknowledge or agree to their requests that have been publicly expressed since Mercer Police intervened on behalf of the University during a protest outside a guest lecture in April.

Students gathered at 11 a.m. on Cruz and were greeted by Glazier, Simmerman and Hart with a huge collection of snacks, water and supplies for creating signs. Faculty also gathered off to the side and on the fringes, to show support for their students.

"I'm here because I want to support my students," Assistant Professor of Religion Shehnaz Haqqani said. "I'm so incredibly proud of them for one, paying attention to what's happening around the world, being invested in this and then also standing in solidarity with other students in protests around the world at this point. And I want them to know that their faculty care, we're paying attention."

The protest opened with a short educational presentation from seasoned protestor Reverend Amanda Schuber of High Street Unitarian Universalist Church. "I think my first protest happened when I was eight, so I've been protesting for a long time," she said.

Schuber explained the correct way for students to handle being arrested if the protest went awry. Despite constant reaffirmation of the intent for a peaceful demonstration, organizers were prepared for potential conflict that has been seen between protestors, police and counterprotestors at schools like UCLA and Columbia.

According to Simmerman's Instagram post raising awareness for the event, MerPo had given "assent" to the protest, but there were no uniformed officers present. Craig McMahan, university minister, and Doug Pearson, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, both stood on Cruz and listened to short speeches by Glazier, Simmerman and Hart.

Pearson also distributed forms that allowed students to register to vote. He said the forms were a way to show he was listening to students who said they wanted their voices to be heard.

"I'm not making a statement on behalf of the university," Pearson told the Cluster. "I came to hear what the students had to say; to make sure their voice is heard here today and at the state and national level."

The organizers of the event also read poetry during their presentation at the beginning of the demonstration. Glazier read Noor Hindi's, "F*ck Your Lecture on Craft, My People are Dying," Hart read Anthony Allessandrini's "The Poet Spoke" and Simmerman read Tawfiq Zayyad's "All I Have."

Simmerman reiterated part of the statement that he had composed with Glazier and delivered to Mercer's Student Government Association. It once again concluded with requests for Mercer to take action but with a few added requests on top of the original five.

In addition to the five requests on their petition that has now collected more than 50 signatures, the protestors also asked:

1. "That Mercer disclose its investments and divest from any investments that support military-industrial complexes, especially those that support genocides."

2. "That Mercer dissociate from Brasfield & Gorrie, a primary contractor of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, also known as 'Cop City.'"

3. "That Mercer make a statement calling for an end to the genocide in Palestine."

Students gathered were mixed on their attachment to the event. While some took bandanas from the organizers, made signs and stuck around in the heat, many students just stopped briefly on the fringes to hear what the organizers had to say.

Some Students, like Sky Grzybowski '26, were more involved. Grzybowski was one of the students placed in custody at the guest lecture hosted by Turning Point USA earlier this month.

"After the protest of Jennifer Grossman's talk, I've been pretty dissatisfied personally with Mercer's response, especially as one of the people detained during that protest," he said. "I'm here trying to show that I am still here, and I'm not going to sit back in my dorm and let that lie; this is a show of dissatisfaction...I want to support my folk and show that I'm annoyed."

"I'm hopeful for some of our requests, I very much hope the administration will respond and make some statements," Simmerman said. He added that while he was not optimistic about the requests for divestment, they still wanted to try their best to make changes.

The organizers did want to make it clear that the demonstration here was in solidarity with students across the nation and in support of the Palestinians in the Gaza area, but Simmerman specifically highlighted that the violence that had occurred at other universities would not be tolerated at this demonstration.

Mercer has not released a statement regarding the requests or the demonstration.

Henry Keating

Henry Keating '24 is a Journalism and History student at Mercer. He has worked at The Cluster as SGA correspondent, State and Local News Editor, Managing Editor and now as the Editor-in-Chief. Henry has held internships at the Macon Newsroom, Macon Telegraph, and Greenville Post and Courier. He enjoys backpacking, rom-coms, pottery and photography.

Eliza Moore

Eliza Moore ‘24 is an English and Journalism student at Mercer University. She is now in her second year working as The Cluster’s News Editor after a semester abroad. She is currently producing work for Macon Magazine and Georgia Public Broadcasting in addition to her work with The Cluster. She loves breakfasts, the ocean, and all things related to writing.

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