UWF Student Protests Racial Injustice in front of Pace Library

Wednesday, a student protested racial injustice in America on the UWF campus. Within the free speech zone, he held a sign that said “Make Racists Afraid Again,” "Muslim Lives Matter," and “No Fascists USA.”

 This student is Joey DeCelles. He’s a Cybersecurity major and is using his voice to facilitate political discussion on campus.

“This is to start a conversation. Something that I realized recently within the last two days is that the more I do this, the more I get attention and the more I get used to it,” he said.

Photo courtesy Skylar Braswell

The sign drew a peaceful crowd as Joey held his sign. Yet the more people who came to support him, the more discussion stirred. The subject transformed from racial injustice to the pros and cons of Black Lives Matter and ended as a Trump debate.

The crowd was mostly underclassmen and included different ethnicities. Though it was composed of just 15 people, it was enough to broadcast on social media via a Facebook Live video and it got the campus talking about racial injustice and the recent election.

“It’s weird that people are telling me that they admire me and find what I’m doing brave because I’m just a dude with a sign.” Joey said. “I realized there’s still a lot of bad people in the world and they’ll be on every corner of the world and on the most liberal and conservative of campuses and this is a way to expose them because when people start that conversation, you start to weed out the people who are just morally bankrupt.”

Photo courtesy Skylar Braswell

Joey was actively using not only his first amendments rights but using a free speech zone properly. When protesting or illustrating your opinion, prepare to have a conversation not an argument. Remember that not everyone is going to agree with your opinion. Do not sway from your argument and stay true to your beliefs. In these free speech zones, others can voice their opinion on the situation as well.

Taylor Jones, a sophomore studying biology pre-med said she was surprised by the protest but in a good way.

“When I first saw the protest I was baffled by the signs and the arguments that were going on,” Taylor said. “I didn’t know exactly what was going on and then when I was told about the different opinions, especially one about Black Lives Matter, I was in shock. This was a great way to start a conversation because you can give your opinion and how you feel about current situations.”

By being open minded and respecting opinions, one can create a positive conversation. Therefore to have a healthy conversation, breathe in negativity and exhale positivity. Freedom of speech zones can become tense if there is hostility and negativity. Friends are your biggest support group and heroes. They will back you up in case of a verbal attack. That does not mean to verbally attack back. It is OK to agree to disagree.

For those who are not as confident as this student, there are many other ways to voice your opinion on campus.

Events like Campus Conversations that are organized through the Equity and Diversity Department allow students to come together and engage in moderated discussions. These events are held in the Commons as well as resident halls on selected nights.

Remember, that there are organizations who share the same beliefs as you. Do not bite your tongue for fear of starting a heated argument. Having an educational, respectful conversation will create a sense of united community on campus.

By simply voicing our opinions in a respectful manner, we are closer to equality and acceptance.