A peaceful protest, memorial, and discussion about gun violence quickly became racially-tinged after counter-protesters showed up toting Confederate flags and apparently shouting racial slurs.
The event occurred at V.R. Eaton High School in Fort Worth, Texas and was organized by students there in response to the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Roughly 100 students gathered inside Eaton High’s student union area before moving to an outside courtyard, where a moment of silence for gun violence victims was attempted by those involved.
Counter-protesters apparently had other plans, though. According to the Dallas Morning News, the placid and respectful atmosphere changed as soon as pro-Confederate protesters arrived.
One Snapchat video from the incident shows a Confederate flag being ripped from the hands of a student–prompting a confrontation between dueling groups. Eaton High Student and protest organizer Jordan Vine said, “People came with the intention to disrupt.”
A video shared by Vine shows her stepping on a Confederate flag while stolidly proclaiming, “We don’t stand for this here. We don’t stand for racism.” The crowd cheers but as Vine makes her case, a male student attempts to wrest the flag back away. Bodies then pile into the frame, creating a chaotic scene full of cross-talk, shouting and concerned off-camera captioning from onlookers.
“Oh god, I don’t think this is a good idea for this school,” one voice pleads. As the students make their way back towards the building, an unintelligible chant breaks out. A security guard stands around awe-struck. At least one blue-shirted adult can be seen prying and prodding students away from each other. Another out-of-frame voice shouts, “He called us a n-gger.”
According to school administrators and various other videos, “several skirmishes” broke out in the Confederate-flag-induced aftermath. According to the Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD), however, there were no arrests or injuries. FWPD Spokesperson Daniel Segura said, in an email to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “”It was a student assembly that apparently got very vocal.”
A statement from Northwest Independent School District spokesperson Emily Conklin noted:
Today, a student-led event took place at Eaton High School, with the purpose to honor the students who lost their lives in Florida. Administration appreciates that students came directly to them ahead of time to ensure the event could be managed as safely as possible. Approximately 100 students participated. During the event, differences of opinions were expressed. Administration at the campus is addressing any concerns students have as well as any disciplinary issues.
The statement continued, “We encourage student groups at district schools to collaborate with their campus teachers and administration when planning events. We support students making their voices heard, and while we encourage differences of opinions, it is our expectation that it is done so respectfully.”
[Image via screengrab; video courtesy Fort Worth Star-Telegram]