Five Arrested in Clemson University Racism Protests

Students staged a sit-in days after bananas were discovered hanging on a sign commemorating black history.

Students walk past Fort Hill, a former plantation house on Clemson University's campus. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

Five students were arrested at Clemson University Thursday night, following sit-ins protesting racism on the South Carolina college campus. They were charged with trespassing after refusing to leave one of the buildings on campus before it closed at 5:30 p.m.

Clemson made national news Monday when students discovered bananas hanging from a sign on campus commemorating black history. The sign displayed the university’s plantation house. Although Jim Clements, the university’s president, in a campus-wide email called the action “hurtful, disrespectful, unacceptable,” and later released a three-page memo on improving inclusion, students demanded more.

Student protesters held a sit-in at Sikes Hall overnight on Wednesday and remained in the building for much of Thursday before they were arrested. Earlier on Wednesday, more than 100 students protested at the administration building. There, Clements tried to address some of their concerns. “I don’t have all the answers, but I’m sitting with a bunch of smart people to help with those answers,” he said.

A large group of social media supporters dubbed those arrested the Clemson Five. The students, D.J. Smith, Khayla Williams, Ian Anderson, A.D. Carson, and Rae-Nessha White, were greeted by a cheering crowd following their arrests.

“As you can see, we are still sitting in at Sikes,” Smith told the group. “We might not be inside Sikes, but we are on the steps and we are not going anywhere anytime soon.”

See the Stripes, a campus activist group, this week released a statement with seven grievances and seven demands for the university. These included a new multicultural center and changing the names of buildings named after controversial figures, such as Benjamin Tillman, the white supremacist and former senator.

Protests continued outside Sikes Hall that night and will continue Friday. The five students who were arrested will appear before a campus municipal court later this month.