Days of racial tension boil over overnight as officials investigate social media posts including one user who threatened to shoot every black person I see
University of Missouri police say the department has arrested a suspect accused of making online threats against black students and faculty.
A post early on Wednesday on the universitys emergency alert website said the suspect was in university police custody and was not on or near the university campus when the threats were made. A dispatcher at the universitys police department said more information would be released later on Wednesday.
The university said it had increased security and was investigating online threats on Tuesday, after weeks of protests over racial tensions on campus culminated in the departure of two senior university officials.
A post on Tuesday night on the colleges website said campus police were aware of social media threats and were investigating. The universitys statement did not offer any further detail, but it came after at least two users posted threats on the anonymous location-based messaging app Yik Yak.
One user threatened to shoot every black person I see.
Another said: Some of you are alright. Dont go to campus tomorrow. The message seemed to echo one that appeared on the website 4chan a forum where racist and misogynistic comments are common ahead of the deadly campus shooting at an Oregon community college last month.
The posts were widely disseminated across the internet and local media.
Campus police captain Brian Weimer told the Associated Press additional officers had already been posted to the campus before the university learned of the threats. University police were working with other state and local agencies to ensure the campus was secure, he said.
A university spokesman could not immediately be reached for further comment, but the schools online emergency information center tweeted: There is no immediate threat to campus, and asked students to not spread rumors.
It has been a tumultuous week for the flagship campus of the University of Missouri system.
The student government president reported in September that people shouted racial slurs at him from a passing pickup truck, galvanizing the weeks-long protest movement there. A graduate student went on hunger strike to demand the resignation of university system president Tim Wolfe over his handling of racial complaints, then more than 30 members of the Missouri football team went on strike in his support. Those developments came to a head on Monday with the resignation of Wolfe and, hours later, the top administrator of the Columbia campus, chancellor R Bowen Loftin, was forced out.
A plaza that had been the site of a sit-in by protesters was entirely empty Tuesday night and only a handful of students were seen walking around campus. Police officers from the campus department and city of Columbia were on patrol.
David Wallace, a spokesman for the student government group Missouri Students Association, said the group asked university officials to cancel classes Wednesday in light of the threats.
Gaby Rodriguez, a senior, said she was at work when she heard about the threats.
Its really disheartening and proves the point of why these protests and boycotts were necessary, Rodriguez said. I dont think Ive ever felt this unsafe at Mizzou, she said, referring to the college by its nickname.
Some students, faculty and alumni have said the protests and top leaders resignations are the culmination of years of racial tension.
Among other recent events, members of the Legions of Black Collegians, whose founders include a recently retired deputy chancellor, said slurs were hurled at them by an apparently drunken white student while practicing for a homecoming performance.
The university has promised changes.
Chuck Henson, a black law professor and associate dean, was appointed Tuesday as the universitys first-ever interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity.
The university systems governing body, the Board of Curators, also announced a number of other initiatives, including more support for the hiring and retention of diverse faculty and staff and a full review of all policies related to staff and student conduct.
Timeline of recent events at University of Missouri
14 August: The university announces the elimination of subsidies that help pay health insurance costs for graduate students employed by the school.
26 August: Graduate students stage a walkout and rally, in part to oppose the health care cut.
12 September: Missouri Student Association president Payton Head posts on Facebook that young people in a pickup truck yelled racial slurs at him. It is the first of many racial incidents on the Columbia campus this fall. Sit-ins, walkouts and other protests follow, fueled by concern that administrators are not addressing the tension.
16 September: The university and Planned Parenthood announce the end of their 26-year relationship after state lawmakers start investigating abortions performed at the university clinics.
24 September: A Racism Lives Here rally takes place on campus.
29 September: An estimated 1,000 protesters turn out for a rally in support of Planned Parenthood.
5 October: A drunk man yells racial slurs at members of the Legion of Black Collegians. Chancellor R Bowen Loftin, on Twitter and in a video message, expresses anger at the slurs.
6 October: Students and faculty stage a sit-in against racism and administrative inaction.
8 October: The university announces that freshmen will be required to undergo diversity training beginning in January, and the program will eventually be expanded to include all students, faculty and staff.
10 October: A group of demonstrators seeking university system president Tim Wolfes attention interrupt the homecoming parade. Police threaten them with pepper spray, and Wolfe declines to get out of his car to speak with them. Many consider that proof of his unwillingness to hear their concerns. He later apologizes, but the damage is done.
11 October: A third Racism Lives Here rally is broken up by university police and cut short.
14 October: Loftin tells faculty members that the university changed course and will be able to cover health insurance payments for graduate assistants for the foreseeable future.
20 October: The group Concerned Student 1950 (the name refers to the first year blacks were admitted at the school) issues a list of demands that includes Wolfes removal.
21 October: The university announces new contracts with Planned Parenthood.
24 October: A swastika is drawn with feces in a dorm bathroom, the second antisemitic incident in a residence hall this year.
27 October: Members of Concerned Student 1950 meet with Wolfe, without resolution.
2 November: Graduate student Jonathan Butler begins a hunger strike, vowing not to eat until he dies or Wolfe is removed. Wolfe issues a statement the following day expressing concern about Butler and saying he was willing to discuss ways to affect change.
4 November: The English Department votes 26-0 to show no confidence in Loftins leadership.
5 November: Students, faculty and staff stage a walkout in support of Butlers hunger strike.
6 November: Wolfe, in a statement, apologizes for the homecoming parade incident and again expresses concern about Butler.
7 November: Black football players announce they will not practice or play football until Wolfe is gone. Within hours, the rest of the team joins in the boycott.
8 November: The remainder of the football team joins in the boycott, threatening cancellation of the 14 November game against Brigham Young University. A tweet from coach Gary Pinkel includes a photo of nearly 100 players and coaches and reads, in part, The Mizzou Family stands as one. Wolfe releases a statement saying he will not resign.
9 November: A tumultuous day begins with an emergency meeting of the systems governing board and Wolfe resigns. Butler immediately ends his hunger strike. Loftin soon resigns as chancellor, saying he will direct the development of research facilities.
10 November: The university appoints an interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity, a new position. The university said it also plans to review all policies related to staff and student conduct; to provide more support to victims of discrimination; and to work toward employing a more diverse faculty and staff.