Nearly 200 people gathered on the north steps of the University of Virginia’s Rotunda on Tuesday for a rally against hate crimes.
Speakers included those who had experienced discrimination, a university official and one very sparkly drag queen.
Taylor Gist, a fourth-year UVa student, read a letter she sent to the student paper, The Cavalier Daily, in which she recounted being called the n-word and having a lit cigarette thrown at her from a balcony the night of the presidential election.
“I experienced an inexcusable level of hostility during my celebration,” she read from her letter.
The rally was sparked in part by a mid-November incident in which a UVa student reported being subjected to slurs, then hit in the face. University police are investigating it as a possible hate crime.
“The safety of an entire community should never have to depend on luck,” fourth-year student Wo Chan said.
The rally, which was billed as Rally NOW: End Hate Crimes at UVA, referred several times to the university’s “community of trust,” a term that describes university students’ commitment not to lie, cheat or steal, nor to tolerate those who do.
Such a community should also be one where everyone can trust to not be attacked for gender, race or other characteristics, speakers said.
“What do we want?” one organizer shouted.
“A community of trust!” the crowd responded.
“When do we want it?” he shouted.
“Now!” they yelled.
Fourth-year student Jason Elliott, performing as drag queen Reigna Beaux, addressed those who hate others for sexuality, gender, race or other reasons. He had a blunt message.
“Hater, go on and shut up,” he said.
Police have described the suspect in the November attack as being 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighing between 150 and 160 pounds and having dark blond hair and facial hair.