Black Lives protest slows MSU homecoming parade

The Detroit News

A student-led protest briefly halted the 2016 Michigan State University homecoming parade on Friday night as demonstrators demanded school leaders take a stance on a push to improve the lives of African-Americans.

Protestors from the group “Which Side Are You On” briefly halt convertible carrying MSU president Lou Anna Simon during the Friday night homecoming parade.

Students sent a letter Tuesday to MSU president Lou Anna Simon as well as Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio, who coach the East Lansing-based school’s basketball and football teams, requesting a statement supporting the Movement for Black Lives.

Simon responded in a letter Thursday that read in part: “We understand that the current events that have impacted the larger community, and members of the Black community, specifically, are appropriate concerns for us at MSU. We welcome and encourage student engagement, whether in- or outside the classroom, toward the goal of achieving a more humane and just society, even when we may disagree on the methods and means for achieving the goal.”

But a specific stance was not stated, which led the group “Which Side Are You On” to write on its Facebook page: “... From here on, we must accelerate and exaggerate all actions and do so unapologetically.”

So on Friday, dozens of demonstrators — many clad in black — joined a protest on campus as the homecoming procession wound through with the Spartan Marching Band, sororities and fraternities among others.

At one point along the route, the group fanned out across the street and stopped in front of the convertible carrying Simon. Witnesses saw her speak to the students and allow police on the scene to give them a few minutes to let the parade proceed.

“As she typically does, President Simon took a few moments from the parade to talk with the students about their concerns,” Jason Cody, a university spokesman, said late Friday. He added she echoed the sentiments in her letter.

It wasn’t clear if anyone was detained or caused disturbances. Organizers and MSU police did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday night.