A protest became more of a conversation after both pro-Tillman and con-Tillman Clemson
members attended the “Save Tillman” rally- an effort to maintain the name of Clemson’s Tillman Hall after a group of students expressed a desire to change the name.
Around 12:30pm I headed towards Tillman Hall and found a small group clustered in the shady area of Bowman Field. Surrounding them were picket signs, placed neatly on the ground. The signs included quotes, hashtags, and bible verses: “Those who do not know history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them”; a variation on a quotation by George Santayana.
I spoke with Grant McDaniel and Matthew Groppe, the two student protest leaders. They mentioned that a large part of the protest incorporated the hashtag #ISeeOrange. They explained that the concept of #ISeeOrange is the idea of seeing a Clemson student, rather than someone of a certain race or nationality. You’ll notice the concept exemplified on the sign to the far left. See the video below to hear their thoughts, and their speech at the end of the protest:
The crowd grew as time went on. Students, faculty, and alumni from both sides of the argument attended the protest. Die-hard Tillman Hall supporters made an appearance, while those in See the Stripes tee-shirts joined as well. During the peak of the protest, the crowd was roughly 50 to 60 people- a mix of both sides of the argument. The picket signs remained on the ground, unused, as people began to congregate and talk. Some attended to take photos and observe rather than discuss. The protest seemed for the most part civil, save for a strongly-worded argument and some grumbled words from some of the older alumni. I met three students armed with a pack of beer- they were there to support Tillman Hall’s name, but also spent a fair amount of time watching the TV interviews.
I interviewed several students, all with unique views of the situation. Some of them came in support of the protest; some of them came in disagreement; some of them came to drink beer (Left photo credit to Dalton Mills):
After they addressed the crowd and sung Clemson’s alma mater with a handful of older alumni, I spoke to Matthew and Grant about the turn their protest took. I mentioned how I thought that the protest had become more of a discussion:
“Yeah, that’s great,” Matthew said. “That’s what it ultimately should become. It needs to be a conversation between all groups so that we can figure out where to go from here. Together.”
Grant added: “Both sides need to be heard out. I’m glad that we had supporters from the other side that are against us come out, so we can work together and not be against each other, and come together as one to make ourselves a better student body so we can all see orange and all be Clemson.”
While the protest itself was mainly civil, the debate still continues hotly on social media. Both sides of the argument take to Twitter to voice their opinions. The Clemson YikYak continues to host multiple offensive comments. Several Tillman-oriented Twitter and Facebook pages have appeared, and some of them have resorted to blocking Twitter users for various reasons:
Meanwhile, a petition to keep Tillman Hall’s name continues to grow. The #SaveTillman protest marked one day that the groups came together, but the debate continues on social media and beyond.
As the protest grew to a close, some of the older alumni began to leave. “We’re getting a beer,” one of them said.