Student activists at Hofstra University are demanding the removal of a statue of Thomas Jefferson from campus.
Ja’Loni Owens, a Hofstra student and Black Lives Matter activist, started a change.org petition that warns it will discuss “slavery, rape, eugenics, anti-black racism” and claims the Founding Father’s statue belongs in a museum with proper context, “not displayed on a college campus, especially not in front of a hub of student life.”
Owens specifically addressed “white allies” in their Facebook event for the Friday protest “Jefferson Has Gotta Go!” to be held at the statue in front of the student center.
“Please understand that this is a protest against white supremacy and that you as white people – even though you’re allies – benefit from white supremacy!” Owens wrote. “Your obligation is to fight that! Come prepared to step up if racial slurs or otherwise offensive things are said to organizers of color or poc attending. If you’re able, come prepared to hold posters and like….PROTEST.”
Owens added a stern warning to white students: “Do not come and take selfies for your Instagram feed or SO HELP ME GOD.”
The demonstration’s leader also warned non-black people of color (POC):
“Y’all are POC, but not everyone’s roots run through enslavement! Pls be respectful! Don’t derail! There is room for all of us!!! POC solidarity, pls!”
While the university approved the protest, Owens wrote that “if Hofstra was supportive and embraced anti-racist work, we would not be protesting.”
The protest is co-sponsored by a number of campus organizations: Campus Feminist Collective, Collegiate Women of Color, Democrats of Hofstra University, Hofstra History Club, Hofstra NAACP Chapter, Peace Action Matters, Queer & Trans People of Color Coalition, Student Advocates of Safer Sex, The Gender Identity Federation, The Pride Network of Hofstra University, and Young Democratic Socialists of Hofstra.
When reached for comment, the organizers pointed to the event description.
“Jefferson’s values aided in the construction of institutionalized racism and justified the subjugation of black people in the United States,” the petition reads, alleging, “Jefferson has been embraced as an icon by white supremacist and neo-nazi organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and online white supremacist chat rooms…”
But not everyone on campus supports the protest.
“Not to bring problems, but I'd like to point out that as you are making the protest about your right to freedom of speech, don't forget that people like Jefferson gave you that right,” Hofstra student Conor Dawson wrote, as reported by CampusReform.org.
In February, Owens held a “silent protest” to “draw attention to racism on Hofstra’s campus” and memorialized Trayvon Martin by taping a piece of paper that said “Black Lives Matter” on the Jefferson statue.
“The right to peaceful protest and assembly is at the core of our democracy. Hofstra supports our students’ right to engage in peaceful demonstrations about issues that matter to them. We look forward to continuing a civil exchange of ideas and perspectives on the subject,” the university told Fox News.