For some Emory students, support for Donald Trump is personal

A group of Emory University students expressed 'genuine concern and pain' in a private meeting with the university president after finding messages supporting the divisive presidential candidate around campus.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Students walk through the center of Emory University's liberal arts campus in Atlanta, in April 2009. Emory students expressed concerns this week about pro-Donald Trump slogans written in chalk around campus, telling the university president that they viewed the messages as intimidation.

At Emory University, chalk scrawled messages of support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump crossed the line from political opinions to open threats, according to student protesters.

On Tuesday, students who felt intimidated by the messages demanded a private meeting with the school president in which they expressed “genuine concern and pain," Emory President Jim Wagner wrote in a letter to the student body. The letter was penned one day after the president met with a group of 40 to 50 student protesters.

The day prior, a group of students demonstrated on the university campus. Part of the group’s chanting included: "You are not listening! Come speak to us, we are in pain!" Mr. Wagner agreed to meet with the group soon after.

Trump slogans and signs of support were scrawled in chalk on sidewalks, buildings, and other campus areas over the weekend. The messages ranged from slogans, like “Trump 2016,” to support for Trump’s controversial plan to deal with immigration. "Build a wall," one message read.

The student protesters say they are not trying to prevent anyone from exercising their right to freedom of speech, but they are frustrated over what they see as an expression of intolerance and a slow reaction from the administration.

"If there were pro-Hitler things around the campus or swastikas, Emory would have taken a stance on it," Lolade Oshin, a Emory student involved with the protests on Monday, told The Associated Press. In October 2014, Emory University officials said the FBI had joined an investigation into swastikas that were painted on the exterior of a historically Jewish fraternity house.

Other protestors resented the messages for making certain students feel uneasy and unsafe.

"It was an intentional way to rile students up and intimidate those of us who feel we are in danger with this presidential candidate," Jonathan Peraza, a second student involved with the protests, told the AP. "We do feel that our lives are in danger with his campaign and the violence that he's been inciting."

Mr. Peraza said the intimidation also got worse following the protest. He said he received death threats via social media, including a picture of a gravestone with his name on it.

"We're getting targets put on our backs because we're speaking out for the things that we need," he said. "I'm literally watching my back all over campus."

In the letter to the student body, President Wagner detailed changes to the school's policies that have been in the works for months. One such change will focus on refining "bias incident reporting and response procedure," he wrote.

Emory’s policies will also aim to help promote dialogue over controversial issues, according to the AP.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

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