Large group near EMU's football field protests against racist graffit

Posted at 10:50 PM, Sep 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-24 12:38:37-04

Protesters gathered near an end zone and marched on the field after Eastern Michigan's 27-24 victory over Wyoming on Friday night, three days after racial graffiti was found spray painted on a campus building.

The students sat peacefully and talked to EMU President James Smith late in the third quarter. They moved outside the end zone area in the closing moments before walking onto the field chanting, "No justice! No peace!" A Wyoming player joined them for a few moments.

The national anthem was played early while the teams were off the field, with the university citing safety and security concerns.

The graffiti was found Tuesday and included the letters "KKK" and a racial epithet. School officials say another racial slur was found Wednesday in a stairwell. Authorities also are investigating after an SUV pushed through a crowd protesting the graffiti Tuesday.

Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton said the protesters didn't seem "aggressive" but were just "inching closer" near the end of the game. He spoke with the referees, and they told him they trusted security to handle the crowd.

Creighton and the Eagles walked onto the field linking arms Friday after meeting Thursday night to discuss "the things that are going on in our country and on our campus.

"And it was a very positive, very deep, very meaningful, respect-filled conversation among our team," he said. "I was super proud of the dialogue we had."

EMU President James Smith released this statement:

"Our primary efforts at last night’s game, and at all campus events, are designed to protect the safety and security of everyone involved – in this case our students, fans, employees, and the marching band members and student athletes on the playing field. Our Department of Public Safety officers and all personnel involved are to be credited for their approach and their work with our students under challenging circumstances.

We have great respect for our students engaged in the constructive efforts underway to address the issues we face, and we strongly defend and support the right of students to peacefully demonstrate about issues important to them."