Candlelight vigil to be held tonight

Demonstrators raise clenched fists in defiance to racism during a protest in the Venice beach area of Los Angeles on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. Hundreds of people rallied in Southern California to condemn racism in the wake of the deadly events in Charlottesville, Va. (Richard Vogel/AP)

Tonight, the University of Connecticut will host a “Candlelight Vigil for Memory and Justice” at 7:30 p.m. on the Student Union Quad.

The vigil is intended to be a “dignified, warm and solemn event,” according to the description of the event in the UConn Daily Digest. It is being hosted to “reflect upon the events at Charlottesville and the lives that have been ended too soon in the fight against white supremacy, fascism, anti-Semitism, islamophobia, homophobia, patriarchy and all forms of oppression and marginalization,” the Daily Digest said.

“We feel it is important for UConn to host a vigil to acknowledge the events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, near the University of Virginia campus, and their reflection of the broader contested socio-political context within the U.S. of (the) interpretation of free speech versus hate speech,” Joseph Cooper, the organizer of the speaker program for the vigil and an assistant professor in the Sports Management program, said.

Cooper said it is important to recognize that the rhetoric of the broader political climate over the past few years has resulted in more explicit expressions of white supremacy and nationalism and subsequent violence.

“(These expressions) have the potential to incite violence and, without question, intensify an unwelcoming campus climate, particularly for targeted groups that are underrepresented and marginalized,” Cooper said.

There has been widespread concern about alt-right groups targeting institutions of higher education to promote agendas that blur and, at times, cross the line between free speech and hate speech, Cooper said.

“It is important to demonstrate to our students our recognition of the state of the country and be proactive in terms of condemning certain acts of hatred, bigotry and violence while reiterating our commitment to our institutional values,” Cooper said.

Cooper said he believes the event will communicate the university’s institutional awareness, responsiveness and commitment to making its campus climate safer, more welcoming, more inclusive and more respectful for all students, staff and faculty.

Cooper said he hopes students walk away from the event with a stronger appreciation for UConn as a place that cares about social-political events that occur on and beyond campus.

“We hope [students] gain a heightened level of reflection and awareness on how we individually and collectively can continue to strive for the betterment of our campus community and not allow hatred, bigotry, violence and various forms of discrimination, prejudice, marginalization and oppression to detract us from upholding our institutional values of diversity, respect, human rights and justice,” Cooper said.

The speakers at the event include the USG President, Irma Valverde, leaders from UConn’s cultural centers, faith-based groups, graduate student organizations, faculty from various academic departments and staff from across programs and departments on campus. They will be speaking on the theme of One UConn Progressing Together while reflecting on the events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, two and a half weeks ago.


Gabriella Debenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.