Some MU students grow frustrated with increased Jefferson statue security

4 weeks 2 days 7 hours ago Monday, September 21 2020 Sep 21, 2020 Monday, September 21, 2020 3:03:00 PM CDT September 21, 2020 in News
By: John Jenco, KOMU 8 Reporter
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COLUMBIA - An acrylic casing was installed on Saturday around the tombstone of Thomas Jefferson, located next to the Francis Quadrangle on the University of Missouri campus.

A MU spokesperson said the total cost of the casing was about $20,000.

The large panes fully encase the obelisk structure that was presented to the University in 1885.

The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked a racial justice movement that brought the legacy of slaveowners into question.

Jefferson owned about 200 slaves at the time of his death. He also raped and fathered multiple children with a young slave named Sally Hemings.

Hunter Jackson, a Black sophomore at the university, said the statue represented a painful reminder of past injustices.

"You know that it bothers other students," Jackson said. "This is not an issue that just came about."

Another student, Rachel Obenhaus, painted a small poster that implied Jefferson was both a racist and rapist and placed it on the bronze statue of Jefferson, near the tombstone.

She said a university official tried to remove the sign around 11:30 a.m. Monday without speaking to her, because it was hanging around the neck of the statue.

Obenhaus objected and was told to keep the sign off the statue.

Obenhaus said she told the official, "I can do that, but this is my form of protest and I would like to stay out here."

Students showed a growing frustration with MU administration's handling of the statue situation.

"If multiple students are coming to you saying this is an issue, that should be more of a priority than protecting the statue," Jackson said.

MU Chancellor and UM System President Mun Choi announced the statue and tombstone would stay in place, but the University would try to contextualize Jefferson's role in slavery.

Obenhaus said the student movement against the statue is attempting to do just that.

"We're not trying to erase history," Obenhaus said. "We're just trying to create less pain."

Obenhaus added she would like to see the administration doing a better job of listening to student's grievances.

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