#StandWithSam

At this point in time, the most newsworthy event in dear CoMo is the coming out of standout MU football player Michael Sam. Sam, who led the SEC with 11.5 quarterback sacks and 19 tackles in 2013, as well as expected to be a third to fifth round draft in for the NFL, decided to open up to the world on Feb. 9, 2014. More here.

I’ve never seen the students of MU come together to support one person like they have for Sam. The outflow of love and support for Sam from MU students is truly awe-inspiring.

Due to the attention Sam has been receiving, today, Feb. 15, members of the Westboro Baptist Church community planned to protest Sam during MU’s basketball game against Tennessee. See their schedule of protests here. (They are protesting country singing group Lady Antebellum for not using their platform to preach. I mean, sure, that’d be cool, but calm down WSB. Let the people sing.) After hearing this, a Facebook event was created by MU students Alix Carruth and Kelaney Lakers. The event gained the attention of thousands. More than 4,800 people RSVP’d that they would be in attendance.

As a photojournalism student, I couldn’t resist the temptation to stop by and talk to a few of those that had shown up to support Sam. Upon arrival, I was shocked. I had expected several people to be there, but it was 25 degrees and the basketball game was about to start, so I had doubts of large numbers. I was wrong. Very wrong.

A line, spanning from College Ave. to Providence had formed along Stadium. Westboro hadn’t even made their appearance, yet thousands from the community were standing in the cold. I met one group of people that had traveled two hours during their “Spring” Break to stand in line.

MU community forms a human wall in counter protest of Westboro Baptist Church.

MU community forms a human wall in counter protest of Westboro Baptist Church.

When Westboro finally arrived around 1:30 p.m., the human wall had begun to dissolve. However, the ratio of MU community members to WSB protesters had to be 125 to 1. The WSB members hid across the street on a small square of sidewalk and made little to no impact.

Students began to chant MIZ and sing the MU Alma Mater, standing as one. Chills crept up my arms as I watched the diverse group of people linked together in support of one individual. Regardless of your opinion on the matter, the fact that this community would come together to protect one of their own is absolutely amazing. This school has gone beyond my expectations. Coming from a small town, I never expected to feel so accepted and loved at such a large college, but we truly are One Mizzou.

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