Chants of "Hey, hey, ho, ho, rape culture has got to go!" could be heard from Speakers Circle Friday afternoon. MU students and Boone County residents, dressed in black, rallied in response to the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The event, "Stop Kavanaugh, Believe Women, Defend Abortion," followed nationwide #CancelKavanaugh and Stop Kavanaugh rallies earlier this week.
Student leaders from MU Socialists and Stronger Together Against Relationship and Sexual Violence organized the rally. Attendees were instructed to wear black clothing as part of the Action Network's #BlackFriday movement, which seeks to "enter epicenters of white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy, and rape culture" and "shut them down."
Emma Bryant, one of the organizers and a member of MU Socialists, said the rally was especially important for Columbia, where these issues are typically left unspoken.
"I was so proud and happy to see so many people come out," Bryant said. "I think that it really showed that there are people here who are not just saying, 'this is fine,' because a lot of times it kind of feels like it on this campus."
Bryant said she "crawled out of depression" to help organize the event. However, the positive response and turnout made her efforts worth it.
Beginning at noon, the event gave individuals the chance to talk about their encounters with sexual assault. The speakers varied in age and the experiences varied in circumstance, but all of them evoked an emotional response. Some students started crying when recounting their stories, prompting listeners to shout: "We love you," and "We're here with you, honey!"
Missouri House nominee Michela Skelton spoke on the difficulties of telling others about sexual assault.
"I decided to speak out because it's not my blame to bear," Skelton said.
Skelton also mentioned that change needs to occur in government leadership, which will impact how sexual assault is perceived. MU graduate student Abigail Hollis, who attended the rally, agreed.
"I do believe that there needs to be change in our government and policies," she said. "Overall, people and culture are what we need to work on."
Hollis attended the event after hearing about it through friends. For her, the rally signified a potential positive change in society.
"We can begin to understand that human interaction and intimacy is sacred," she said. "When we violate people's bodies in that intimacy it creates far reaching damage."
At the rally, Hollis could see the beginning of this cultural change.
"This is a very charged moment," Hollis said. "There is a lot of power. A lot of people have strong emotions with Kavanaugh, Anita Hill and sexual assault."
After the event, Bryant and the other rally leaders encouraged attendees to sign a Planned Parenthood petition calling for all students to have the option of receiving two Plan B pills every semester. A voter registration booth was also set up for the duration of the rally.
"What we're doing right now is what we need to be doing," Bryant said. "What we need to do is speak out and love each other. We need to vocalize and protest. Registering to vote is not enough."
For those that didn't attend Friday's event, Bryant said the organizers are planning to have "Stop Kavanaugh, Believe Women, Defend Abortion" rallies every Friday for the rest of October. She encourages everyone to not just vote, but to also attend the next rally and join the conversation.
"Sometimes I'm so upset with Columbia because we are silent," Bryant said. "Columbia is not silent today."
Supervising editor is Mark Horvit.