The debate over Smith Meyers' future as a Student Government official spilled onto Turlington Plaza on Tuesday.
Students calling for Meyers' resignation during a protest on the plaza were outnumbered by a group of about 50 people supporting the incoming Student Body president.
After Meyers’ arrest during Spring Break for drunkenly knocking over two Harley-Davidson motorcycles, according to the Key West Police Department, a crowd of about 200 people watched during what was originally planned to be a protest for Meyers' resignation.
But the group of about 15 protesters was met by counter-protesters, holding signs and voicing their support for Meyers. Some held poster boards with jokes like "The Krusty Krab is unfair" and "Jet fuel can't knock over scooters." Others chanted, “Stick with Smith.”
Meanwhile, the original group of protesters called on UF to demand Meyers’ resignation while holding signs plastered with his mugshot and calling his character into question.
In a statement, UF spokesperson John Hines spoke to the divisiveness of the matter.
“It’s clear there are strong opinions on both sides of this issue,” he wrote in an email.
Current Student Body President Susan Webster said in a statement released Sunday that Meyers’ status as a Student Government official will not change despite the arrest.
Anthony Rojas, a 21-year-old UF political science junior who organized the original protest, attempted to address the crowd but was drowned out by chants and cheers from counter-protesters.
Rojas said he invited the counter-protesters to speak about why they don’t think Meyers should resign, but none took the offer.
“I think it’s important that everyone be active and participate in a dialogue around Student Government,” he said. “My problem is that it was more of a joke.”
A photo of incoming Student Body President Smith Meyers lies on the ground as a crowd gathers to watch protesters and counter-protesters demonstrate on Turlington Plaza on Tuesday.
Luis Taveras, a 19-year-old UF applied physiology and kinesiology freshman, held a sign that read, “Pacman Hates Ghosts.”
“Pac-Man hates ghosts because Will Meyers didn’t do anything,” he said, referring to Meyers’ birth-given first name. “He’s a human.”
Two signs from counter-protesters claimed the Alligator, which published footage of Meyers’ arrest, was “Fake News” and “Poo Poo.”
Cameryn Schultz, an 18-year-old UF applied physiology and kinesiology freshman, held a handwritten sign reading “Stick with Meyers” in blue letters.
“This protest is ridiculous,” she said, but she declined to comment further.
About 20 counter-protesters also declined to comment.
Following the protest, five students delivered a petition calling for Meyers’ resignation to the Dean of Students Office.
The online petition has amassed more than 300 signatures.
The students sat with Mickey Howard and Kris Klann, associate directors of the New Student and Family Programs, to voice their concerns about Meyers. Klann said Dean of Students Jen Day Shaw was unavailable due to a conference, but that Shaw will set up a personal meeting with the students.
“I know this is a priority for her,” Klann said.
Nafeesah Attah, a UF international studies sophomore, said she attended the original protest because students are making excuses for Meyers’ actions, which she argued would have been viewed more harshly if he were a person of color. She said he should be removed from office.
“If Smith was black, we would not be having his discussion,” the 19-year-old said. “We should not tolerate this.”
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that the petition calling for Meyers' resignation has amassed more than 300 signatures; it is unclear how many students signed it.
Contact Paige Fry at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @paigexfry
Anthony Rojas (front), a 21-year-old third-year political science major who organized the protest against student body president Smith Myers, tries to speak to a crowd while counter-protesters hold signs behind him and other protesters.