TUPELO, Mississippi (Reuters) - Hundreds of University of Mississippi students took part in a candlelight vigil for unity on Wednesday night in response to a post-election protest that included racial slurs after Democratic President Barack Obama was elected to a second term.
The protest of the presidential election results began late Tuesday with about three dozen students chanting political slogans and shouting racial epithets, but the crowd quickly grew to include some 400 students after word spread on Twitter and Facebook, university officials said.
Campus police were called to disperse participants and spectators. The university said a second gathering of about 100 students popped up shortly afterward, prompting more calls to police and resulting in two arrests on disorderly conduct charges.
Mississippi’s flagship university celebrated its 50th anniversary of racial integration this fall, and the racially tinged protest after the re-election of the first U.S. black president triggered concern about continued intolerance.
“While we are grateful that there were no injuries and there was no property damage, we are very disappointed in those students who took a very immature and uncivil approach to expressing their views about the election,” University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones said in a statement.
“The gathering seems to have been fueled by social media, and the conversation should have stayed there,” he said.
Located in Oxford, the university known as Ole Miss is the state’s largest institution of higher learning with more than 21,500 students.
The school admitted its first black student, James Meredith, in the fall of 1962, and the integration was met with violence. Two men died and dozens of people were wounded in the riots that erupted as federal officials escorted Meredith to campus.
On Thursday, campus police Chief Calvin Sellers dismissed reports describing the incident after Tuesday’s election as a riot. He said a few individuals caused a small disturbance that drew a crowd of several hundred spectators.
A similar event occurred after the presidential election four years ago, Sellers said. During that incident, students argued with each other about the election results, but the exchange did not attract as large a crowd.
Ole Miss students concerned about the university’s image following the latest disturbance joined in the “We Are One Mississippi” candlelight walk on campus on Wednesday to condemn the protest.
About 700 people, including Jones, participated in the event, which demonstrated student solidarity and the true spirit of Ole Miss, said university spokesman Danny Blanton.
Editing by Colleen Jenkins