Miami University may be rivals with the University of Cincinnati (UC), but students from the two schools put their differences aside and joined together Thursday to demonstrate against the attack of two gay students.
At the event attendees chanted, “two, four, six, eight, no more violence, no more hate” and, “no hate on my campus” and held hands to symbolically support the two men who were assaulted.
Miami students held their rally at the Phi Delta Theta Gates while UC students met at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and Clifton Avenue in Cincinnati.
Miami junior Michael Bustin, one of the students attacked March 25, said he was “humbled” by the show of support from students at the two universities.
“I’m really humbled about how the school, the community [and] UC has stepped up and pushed against what happened,” Bustin said.
The rally began with speeches from Miami President David Hodge, Dean of Students Susan Mosley-Howard and Oxford Mayor Richard Keebler.
“Violence has no place in our society and no place in our city,” Keebler said in an interview before his speech. “You can disagree with someone, but violence and hatred has no place here.”
In his speech Keebler said, “violence is out and acceptance is in.”
Speakers and students alike called their reason for gathering unfortunate.
“It’s a shame that two men are safer walking alone than together,” Mark Noviski, co-president of Spectrum, Miami’s LGBTQ association said.
Mosley-Howard agreed with this sentiment.
“It’s unfortunate we have to gather under these circumstances,” Mosley-Howard said. “When one of us is assaulted, all of us are assaulted.”
In an interview after his speech, Hodge called on the community to come together against hate.
“What’s so incredible about this is how constructive the approach is,” Hodge said. “There is no excuse for violence of any kind and the fact that it’s targeted makes it the worst. But this is an opportunity for the community to be reminded to step up and do the right thing.”
Members of the Miami and Oxford community also united in rallies after a student was attacked outside Spectrum’s drag show in April 2010.
Bustin said the night of the attack he met a student from UC at Spectrum’s drag show and decided to walk him home to make sure he got there safely. When the two men were walking on East Church Street a few strangers saw them holding hands and called them “fags.”
Bustin said he and his friend kept walking but the strangers approached them and began to punch the UC student. Bustin said he stepped between the assailant and his friend to stop the fight but was punched in the face several times. Another attacker began to punch Bustin and his friend when five or six students came up and broke up the fight, according to Bustin.
Oxford Police Department’s (OPD) Sgt. Jon Varley said the attack was marked as criminal with hate bias, meaning if the attackers are caught they could face harsher penalties and longer jail sentences.
Billy Price, co-president of Spectrum, said the organization is working with OPD, the Miami University Police Department (MUPD), Miami administrators and UC students to raise awareness about hate bias violence.
“Unfortunately we’re still in a place where people think it’s appropriate to attack people based on their sexual orientation,” Price said. “This is unacceptable and shouldn’t happen on Miami’s campus. But, the outpouring of support shows the campus has come a long way.”
Bustin echoed Price’s sentiment.
“My whole goal was just to tell my story and let people know this wasn’t alright to happen,” Bustin said. “I think it [acceptance on campus] has gotten better though. I didn’t come out until this past year but people are becoming more understanding.”
Bustin said he was especially touched by the support shown from people he does not know well.
“I’ve been humbled; people who I haven’t talked to in ages sent me Facebook messages and emails asking me if they could do anything,” he said.
Varley said OPD would be happy to provide extra security at the drag shows if their presence was requested.
“We’ll respect the wishes of those attending [the show],” Varley said. “Sometimes they don’t want the police around but we’re more than happy to make sure everyone is safe and has a good time.”
Bustin said he hopes his attack will raise awareness about this sort of violence.
“I hope this serves as a message for the future to stop hate no matter what it is over, whether it’s sexual orientation, gender, religion, race [or] whatever,” he said. “We need to stop it.”