Students hope to change history with Occupy Tillman Protest

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On Wednesday, September 28, Winthrop students and Rock Hill citizens participated in peaceful protest, a Die In that ended in the Occupation of Tillman Hall. The demonstration began at noon at the DiGorgio Student Center to honor the lives lost because of police brutality and to stand up against oppressive systems. Participants then marched to Tillman Hall.

Winthrop’s Socialist Student Union, creators of the event, said on their Facebook that “the point of marching to Tillman Hall was to demonstrate that Winthrop must move past their historical ties to systemic racism while fighting contemporary systemic racism.” After arriving at Tillman, protestors waited in solidarity until their voices were heard about getting the names of Tillman Hall changed.

Ben Tillman has a record of being advocates for white supremacy. Benjamin “Pitchfork” Tillman, a former Governor of South Carolina, was involved in Sweetwater Sabre Club, a club formed to restore white rule in Southern America. At the age of 29, Tillman was also involved in the Hamburg Riot, which is also known for the murder of a number of black militiamen who were marching in a parade. Tillman was also quoted saying “the leading white men of Edgefield decided to seize the first opportunity that the Negroes might offer them to provoke a riot and teach the Negroes a lesson by having the whites demonstrate their superiority by killing as many of them as was justifiable.” This is just one of many acts that Tillman was involved in that worked towards the oppression of people of color.

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Meagan Holland, a political science major at Winthrop who attended the event, said that she felt the protest was “extremely successful.” She said that it was open for “students of every background and color to voice their opinions and feelings while standing together.” Holland also said that because of the involvement of numerous faculty and staff made the event “more successful.” Meagan said that protestors had hoped to “receive support from administration and the Board of Trustees, while continuing to voice and stress concerns of students, especially when it comes to the name of Tillman Hall.”

Holland also said that the event hoped to shed light on “who Ben Tillman really was and what he stood for, so that students can understand why we don’t want the administrative building after him.” I asked Meagan about how she thought the event had impacted campus, including students who didn’t attend. She said that “campus and other students got to see the side of a lot of students that hadn’t been seen before; an involved and courageous side.” Holland said that students who were involve put a lot on the line, she also talked about the admiration that she had for these students. When asked about if she thought that Winthrop should host more of these events, Holland said that campus should “strive to have more of these events on campus and in the community because when people are standing in solidarity over an issue that needs resolve, I only see positive outcomes.”

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