While fans erupted into cheers as the Ohio University football team took to the field Saturday afternoon, a group of about 45 demonstrators dressed in black silently held their fists in the air.
Sasha Estrella-Jones, a member of the 2016 Homecoming Court, was among the demonstrators. She said her fellow demonstrators included people of various races, religious backgrounds and sexual orientations, and she said they were advocating for diversity and inclusion.
Estrella-Jones said the group includes members of the football team.
“The football players have a very powerful voice, being student athletes,” she said. “And (our group) is made of various leaders here at Ohio University who really care about diversity and inclusion, to really stand together and let it be known that hatred of any kind will not be tolerated at our institution by both students and administration.”
Estrella-Jones said members of the group that demonstrated at the beginning of the game love Ohio University, but that some aspects of its culture are "challenging."
“We definitely wanted (the demonstration) to be something that was very peaceful — that was our big thing,” Estrella-Jones said. “We’re very much here for diversity and inclusion. We’re also here for peace. ... Every demonstration we do will be a peaceful one.”
Later in the game and across the stadium, a group of about eight demonstrators draped a banner from the railing of the grandstands that read, “Make racists afraid again.” In that demonstration, which was not affiliated with the demonstration that took place in the beginning of the game, demonstrators chanted, “Whose lives matter? Black lives matter.” Spectators behind them in the stands chanted over them, saying “all lives matter.”
Ronald Chunn, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Nelsonville, approached the demonstrators and asked them to take a seat to allow spectators to view the game.
“I understand the cause. I’m a pastor,” Chunn said. “All lives matter to me. … They’re here to see a game. Can they at least … allow these people to see this game?”
A member of stadium staff approached the demonstrators, then followed them from the stands saying, “I’m sorry, I’m just doing my job.” Multiple other staff members said they knew nothing about the incident when approached for comment.
Local activist and former Student Senate member Prince Shakur, who participated in the demonstration, declined to comment and said none of the other demonstrators were comfortable speaking with reporters.
The Ohio University Police Department Chief Andrew Powers said to his knowledge, his department didn't escort any demonstrators out of the stadium. OUPD Lt. Tim Ryan said he didn’t believe event security escorted any demonstrators out, either.
“Event security falls under us,” Ryan said. “If they knew, we would know.”
Clarification: This article has been modified to clarify that Ohio University Police Department Chief Andrew Powers said to his knowledge, his department didn't escort any demonstrators out of the stadium.
Correction: A photo and a photo caption previously attached to this article misidentified the people in the caption as being part of a specific organization. Both the photo and photo caption have been changed to better reflect the demonstrations.
Clarification: The article has been updated to clarify that the eight demonstrators who dropped the banner were not affiliated with the initial demonstration.
Correction: A previous version of this article mislabeled the type of coalition the demonstrators were part of. The article has been updated to show the most accurate information.