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BYH, some see the glass as half empty. I say just get a smaller glass and quit complaining....

Band protest fallout widens after developments

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ECU Marching band members Dylan Allen and Hunter Marketto on Oct. 1 during the National Anthem of the football game vs. UCF decided to hold the United States Flags to show that they disagreed with their bandmates kneeling but supported their first amendment rights.

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Sharieka Breeden
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The pair of Marching Pirates who held an American flag aloft on Saturday while some bandmates took a knee during the national anthem said they continue to fear for their safety because so many fans have reacted violently to the protest.

Dylan Allen and Hunter Marketto said on Tuesday they also continue to stand behind their bandmates’ right to protest, even though Pirate fans spit on the band, hurled objects and called them names. The pair declined to comment on Monday’s decision by administrators that East Carolina University would not tolerate further protests by the band.

Nineteen members rested on a knee during the anthem at the opening of Saturday’s game with the University of Central Florida. The students have not been identified and have not stated the purpose of their demonstration, apparently meant to follow suit with protests nationwide against the deaths of black men during encounters with police. The protest Saturday was met with boos from the crowd, which also booed at halftime. 

Chancellor Cecil Staton issued a release shortly after the protest that supported the students’ right to free expression. The protest and Staton’s reaction produced outrage from fans who threatened to pull their support from the university, which is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to expand the stadium.

Fallout continued on Tuesday with a Fayettville radio station that serves Fort Bragg announcing it would not carry the Pirates’ game this Saturday against the University of South Florida because the university had tolerated the protest. Also, a group of former Black Student Union presidents called on the university to continue to allow students to protest. (See the full statements below the story)

Allen and Marketto said they held the flag to show they disagreed with their bandmates’ protest while reminding “Pirate Nation of the First Amendment rights that everyone has,” Marketto said.

“It's sad because we understand the media is trying to twist it and they are trying to divide..” Marketto said. “At the end of the day, there are so many peaceful protest that go through unnoticed and it's only focused on the ones that break out into complete chaos, just to reiterate, I believe in the right to protest and the right to speak. We support our band members for exercising that right on Saturday, but in hindsight we disagree with their kneeling; that's why we held the flag to show that we do disagree but we will support the first amendment rights of our brothers and sisters.”

Allen, an ECU senior who plays the tuba, said the band had to be surrounded by police and remain in the stands for an additional 20 minutes on Saturday due to angry fans. 

Allen said Marketto was hit with a bottle and a fan called him a “n_____ lover.” He said a fan also looked a black band member in the eyes and told him he should drink bleach. 

“They were definitely words that should've been left in the Jim Crow era and it's sad that the expression of the First Amendment brought that out,” Marketto said. 

When asked about reports of racial slurs, spitting and assaults on Monday, ECU Police Department Lt. Chris Sutton said a few people yelled at the band while they exited and one person threw a bottle or can that did not hit anyone.

“The only thing I want to say about the fans is it was heartbreaking for a lot of students,” Allen said. “I love the fans. I love Pirate Nation and I forgive them and I hope that we can heal. I know a lot of students were really heart broken, certainly we had racial slurs. A lot of people were spit on. Hunter here had a bottled tossed at him, that hit him dead in the spine.” 

Marketto, originally from Germany, said he thinks America is a great nation, and hearing people call him and Allen un-American and say they didn’t deserve to carry the flag was very hurtful.

“People can't pick and choose who has the right to speak and how they speak and where they speak,” he said. “It was essential to us that we stood for our flag and we represented our nation at the same time. We respected our brothers and sisters that chose to kneel and their First Amendment rights.”

Both said they are concerned for their safety and the safety of the band even though police have monitored their practices.

Colonial Media and Entertainment, which operates 101.1 FM ESPN Fayetteville, on Tuesday released a statement that said its sponsors unanimously agreed “that last weekend’s spectacle at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium was shameful and a message needs to be sent.”

“I’m proud of our country and I’m proud of our soldiers ... especially our soldiers from Fort Bragg ... fighting for our country, so I’ve decided that ESPN Fayetteville will ‘protest the protest,’” Jeff Andrulonis, company chairman and CEO, said in the statement.

Past presidents of ECU’s Black Student Union — Dennis Mitchell, Carlos Bennerman, Tamika W. Kelly, Regina Twine, Patrick I. Dixon and Brandon K. Jones — in a Tuesday statement said the response Monday from administrators over the band program has been disappointing. They called on the university to reverse Monday’s decision and stand behind Staton’s original statement.

“Furthermore, we are troubled that both statements neglected to address the visceral responses by fans that were eerily reminiscent of efforts to thwart 1960s Civil Rights movement protests,” the statement said.

“Statements made by these administrators willfully chose not to address the alleged acts of violence and hateful words that soon followed. Instead, statements made by these individuals erroneously equated the protest of these students as unpatriotic and demeaning to the men and women that serve and have served in our military.”

The university again on Tuesday declined to grant interviews with administrators or comment further. A spokeswoman said that Monday’s statement “at this point speaks for itself.” 

Contact Sharieka Breeden at 252-329-9567 and sbreeden@reflector.com. Follow her on Twitter @ShariekaB.

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