MU fraternity gathers more than 100 protesters with mysterious tweets

Friday, October 12, 2012 | 8:25 p.m. CDT; updated 8:27 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 13, 2012
MU fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha organized "The Epiphany" protest Friday at Tiger Plaza in support of victims of bleach-balloon attacks at the University of Texas-Austin.

COLUMBIA — Intrigued by a series of mysterious tweets and Facebook posts, more than 100 MU students showed up at Tiger Plaza on Friday afternoon.

It turned out to be a protest in response to reports that four students at the University of Texas at Austin were targeted with bleach-filled balloons over the summer.

The Texas students, who were Asian and African Americans, did not file complaints at the time, according to police statements in various news media. The Austin Police Department is still investigating.

Students were drawn to Tiger Plaza via a flurry of tweets as well as pictures and videos promoted over social media. The posts asked people to come out and be heard.

MU student Curtis Taylor Jr. said he was inspired by the message of empowerment in his fraternity's national program "A Voteless People is a Hopeless People." This led him to organize Friday's protest called "The Epiphany" along with his fraternity brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha.

On Thursday night, Taylor and his fraternity brothers began posting and tweeting messages about "The Epiphany" without revealing any details. The messages went viral.

When students arrived at Tiger Plaza, they had no idea what would occur until Taylor stood on a wall and began to speak to the crowd. He told them "The Epiphany" was a symbolic protest in support of the victims at the University of Texas.

He invited them to have their photos taken for Facebook and Twitter to spread awareness. Those who participated put duct tape with the word "speak" on their mouths and wrote "change" on their right forearms.

"I thought that this was a way to make a statement in response to the balloon-bleaching," Taylor said. "Just to let those minority students know that they have allies at the University of Missouri-Columbia."

Taylor thought of holding "The Epiphany" while talking to one of his friends last week about a way to impact the campus environment.

"I wanted to incorporate what I do personally with the national campaign to make a change on campus," Taylor said. 

He explained that the tweets were meant to be teasers for the event, a tactic to draw a crowd. He used this as an opportunity to educate those who did not know about the incident that occurred in Texas. 

"Events like this are important because they can be a part of something bigger, and no one should ever feel like they're isolated or alone," MU student Jessi Loos said.

"If we continue to keep pushing ourselves and be innovative and use ingenuity, then we can all create something great," Taylor said.

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.

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