UM `speak-out' rally decries noose incident on campus

Diverse crowd of several hundred turns out at Cole Field House

September 12, 2007|By Gadi Dechter | Gadi Dechter,Sun reporter

A diverse crowd of several hundred students gathered last night in College Park to express still-raw emotions after the discovery last week of a noose hanging on the campus of the state's flagship public college.

"We reject intolerance," said Barrie Adleberg, 21, a senior majoring in African-American and Jewish studies. "Instead of empowering the complacent attitude that racism will exist, we unite as a united voice of resistance."

Police are looking for whoever dangled a 3-foot rope with a small loop at its end from a tree outside a campus cultural center that is home to several black organizations. The incident is being treated as a possible hate crime.

"This is bigger than a noose," Black Student Union President Altmann Pannell told his fellow students, many of whom were wearing "Terps as one" buttons."

"This is bigger than a noose because we as a community know that something else is going on in this country," Pannell said to murmurs of agreement.

Yesterday's "speak-out" was scheduled to be held in front of the library, but it was moved indoors because of a threat of rain. The crowd appeared sparse against a backdrop of 14,000 seats in Cole Field House, and some students bemoaned the light attendance.

"I was hoping there would be more people," said Nicole Jackson, 22, a junior from Washington. But she said the incident -- and the university administration's harsh condemnation of it -- has sparked dialogue across the sprawling campus of more than 25,000 undergraduates.

"Already today, I've seen people I don't normally talk to in class, that are Caucasian, come up to me and ask me what do I feel about it," said Jackson, who is black.

UM President C.D. "Dan" Mote Jr. also planned to address the crowd, to say "that I personally am deeply offended and angered that this symbol has stained our university," according to his prepared remarks.

gadi.dechter@baltsun.com

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