CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Nearly 200 students, faculty, and Corvallis community members gathered on the OSU campus Thursday to project one resounding message.
“We are here to better our families, better our community and to better our campus,” said OSU student Malika Leakona Hopoi. “No one should be afraid to go to class.”
The peace rally comes four days after what the FBI is calling a hate crime at a local mosque.
The FBI said someone intentionally lit the mosque on fire, the same mosque where suspected bomber Mohamed Osman Mohamud occasionally attended.
“When I heard about the arson at the mosque I didn’t feel that pain as an administrator,” said OSU Vice Provost for Student Affairs Dr. Larry Roper. “I experienced that pain as someone who cares deeply about the soul of this community.”
Several speakers took to a podium overlooking the Memorial Union Quad on campus, many hoping to inspire empowerment through the display of a simple armband.
“We wanted to empower people and empowerment is as easy as this white armband,” said Hopoi. “If you’re a peaceful person here to better your life, grab an armband and show it.”
In the days following the arson at the Salman Al-Farisi mosque, many Muslim students expressed fear that they too could be a target.
“When I heard about the fire at the mosque I was up in Portland,” said Muslim OSU Student Danielle Cervantes. “When I came back to Corvallis on Monday I was wary to go out. Yeah, I was just scared for my safety.”
OSU President Dr. Edward J. Ray said it’s that sense of fear that they aimed to address through the rally.
The students "really came together. They didn’t have to be asked to,” said Ray. “They care about each other and they did that pretty much instinctively.”
Ray also said that unfortunately horrible incidences such as the arson at the mosque remind the community that they cannot become complacent with their awareness.
“We think, oh we’re doing fine and then something terrible happens,” said Ray. “You realize, well maybe we haven’t been trying as hard as we should. Maybe we need to redouble our efforts.”