The University of Mississippi erupted this weekend as neo-Confederate activists organized the Mississippi Stands Rally in the Square and marched to the Ole Miss campus with Confederate battle flags in hand on Saturday to protest the removal of Confederate symbols in university community.
The pro-Confederate groups were matched with an equal number of counterprotesters who engaged them in a shouting match.
The counterprotesters were not an officially registered protest group and many traveled from across the state to oppose the neo-Confederate groups’ ideals.
The protests ended at 3:30 p.m. without violence or injuries.
The rallies follow a week of cautionary statements from university officials informing students of the protests. On Feb. 13, the university released its first statement to faculty, staff and students urging them to stay away from certain areas of campus at the time of the rallies.
Several days later, senior marketing major Will Pipes organized a counterrally to be held in the Circle at the same time as the Mississippi Stands Rally. The protest was ultimately canceled because of concerns about safety and inclement weather.
On Wednesday evening, the university held a public forum to field questions regarding the weekend’s events and the university’s recently updated weapons policy.
Student minority groups also held a Black History Month March on Thursday in dissent of the Confederate statue on campus. While the demonstration had been planned prior to the announcement of the pro-Confederate rally, the event took on an entirely different meaning ahead of the Mississippi Stands Rally.
Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks and Provost Noel Wilkin also released a statement on Thursday saying they condemned bigotry and racism but would still allow the Confederate activists to protest on campus even though they found the groups’ views “offensive and contrary to our pursuits” because of the university’s commitment to free speech.
On Friday, Students Against Social Injustice marched on campus to demand that the university remove the monument, marking the second day in a row student groups had marched in the rain for the same cause.
On Thursday night, Confederate 901 leader Billy Sessions made a statement in a Facebook post saying members of his group planned to attend the Students Against Social Injustice protest that was held on campus Friday. However, no counterprotesters arrived at the SASI event.
Many students decided to go home for the weekend in order to avoid the protests.
Despite concerns from students and administrators, there was no violence, and no injuries resulted from the protests, according to University Police Department Chief Ray Hawkins.
“It pretty much went according to our plans,” Hawkins said. “People were searched coming into the protest area. They were searched coming into the counterprotest area. We did have a can of pepper spray and maybe some knuckles that came through. That was all.”
Check out our full coverage of the weekend protests here.