UT students rally over racial tension on campus

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – University of Tennessee students rallied Monday because they were upset about racial tension on campus. They reached out to WATE 6 On Your Side after a Confederate battle flag was seen hanging from a student’s dorm window.

Several students talked about how uncomfortable they are to see the Rebel flag on campus and how frequently they see it. Andrea Richardson decided to do something about it.

“I was walking to my dorm the other day and I saw a Confederate flag hanging out of the window. And as a black person that makes me feel physically threatened,” said Richardson.

Richardson said this wasn’t the first time she’s seen the rebel flag displayed on campus. She said asked the dorms to remove the flag.

“The people that I talked to at first said, like you know, it’s an expression of freedom of speech, but it’s kind of different because it’s a symbol of physical threat for a lot of black people,” Richardson said.

WATE 6 On Your Side took the issue to the university and Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Rickey Hall, sent this statement:

“While we recognize that our students have the right to freedom of speech, we all need to remember the impact some flags and other symbols may have on others in our community. We need to use this as an opportunity for education and discussion.”

The students who rallied said they want more than an opportunity for discussion, they want change; they don’t want the Rebel flag to be seen as an expression. They want the university to view it as hate speech.

The flag on the dorm had been removed on Monday morning, but students said it’s not the only one, and the Rebel flag needs to be prohibited on campus.

“There would be kind of an argument about what constitutes hate speech and what doesn’t. But I think that’s a conversation that we need to start. And I think this is the first step in starting that,” said Summer Awad.

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