NC State students plan on gathering for a protest in Stafford Commons from 12 to 5 p.m. on Jan. 19. This protest comes in response to the University’s announcement that the investigation into Chadwick Seagraves, the desktop support manager in Office of Information Technology with alleged ties to the Proud Boys, concluded and found a lack of evidence tying him to those groups.
Upon hearing the University’s decision on Seagraves, student body officers, including Student Body President Melanie Flowers, Student Body Vice President McKenzy Heavlin, Student Senate President Coleman Simpson and Student Body Treasurer Garrison Seitz immediately began organizing a “freeze out” protest and signed Executive Order No. 5 on Jan. 15, announcing the event to the student body.
Heavlin said he hopes the protest can be an opportunity for collective healing as many students felt disappointed and frustrated with the results of the University’s two-months-long investigation.
According to Flowers, the top two objectives for the protest are to process and reflect on the impact of the Seagraves investigation and to uphold community standards in opposition to all forms of white supremacy. She cited fear, worry and frustration among students as motivation for organizing the protest quickly, calling the freeze out a “strategic option,” meant to “put pressure where we can.”
Heavlin also said the event will serve as a reminder of NC State’s values for both incoming and returning students. He said he wants people to recognize campus as a space for “open dialogue but not hate speech.”
With the investigation closed, the University has no legal right to pursue any action against Seagraves, according to Flowers and Simpson. The executive order addresses this outcome by demanding Seagraves publicly address the allegations and denounce all forms of white supremacy, along with submitting his resignation, in the section addressing the last two objectives: to take direct action and initiate change.
“It’s unfortunate, the limitations that public institutions have, because I think sometimes our policies, as much as they protect us, they limit us in protecting us at the same time,” Flowers said. “The results are frustrating but, legally, I understand where the University was put.”
The on-campus protest will involve a march through campus, beginning with an opening speech at Stafford Commons and ending at the Free Expression Tunnel. Students who choose to attend the on-campus protest will have to follow all federal and state regulations to limit the spread of COVID-19. Student Government (SG) is still working to organize the virtual portion of the protest. According to the executive order, both portions will begin at 12 p.m. and end at 5 p.m.
According to Heavlin, both the on-campus and virtual components of the protest will involve letter writing from approximately 1 to 1:45 p.m. Students will be able to write personal letters to Seagraves, meant to be mailed to Seagraves, though SG has yet to confirm whether delivering the letters through mail is actually possible.
“Since the University is in a place where they legally can’t take action, it’s up to the students to say ‘hey, we don’t support this,’” Heavlin said.
Students will add their handprint to a mural at the end of the march. Heavlin said this is meant to serve as a “self commitment to bettering the Wolfpack.”
Along the way, the protest will stop at notable spots on campus to acknowledge other times in history when students have made changes through activism. The 1911 Building will be one of these stops, according to Heavlin. At this spot, participants will discuss how the class of 1911 made an effort to end first-year hazing, which was at the time a contentious issue.
Flowers cited safety as a primary concern for the event, especially considering the recent riot at the U.S. Capitol and statements from the FBI in anticipation of additional armed protests at all 50 state capitals leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20. Flowers voiced concern that these events will spark possible counterprotests that would place students in danger because of the campus’s proximity to North Carolina’s state Capitol building.
University police will serve as security for the event. Flowers said police will be present, but not “on the ground with us.” She went on to say the officers will be “as far back as they need to be.”
Police will be monitoring the area for any potential threats. If a danger is present, the protest will immediately disband, according to Flowers.
“Looking at what happened at the White House, that’s not outside of the scope of possibility,” Flowers said. “We don’t know who’s going to come. So, we want to make sure that safety is the first priority.”
Simpson said he hopes the protest will provide students with support after waiting for the investigation to end, and any emotions they may be experiencing as a result.
“I think there’s always room and space to provide resources for support, which was lacking, because a lot of students were hurt and very emotionally distraught over this announcement, or really just from the beginning to the end, and still, to this day,” Simpson said.
Flowers emphasized that the protest is meant to reflect the importance of speaking up.
“The energy that will be on Stafford, it’s NC State; it’s not the headlines that you’ve been seeing,” Flowers said. “I think it’s really easy to feel like we’re nothing more than a university that Chadwick Seagraves works at, but that’s not true.”