On the morning after the presidential election, Justice Rappel was walking to her dorm when, she said, a white man on the sidewalk looked her in the eye, said something she didn’t quite catch, and spit on her.
Rappel, who is black and is studying biology at the University of Central Missouri, was dumbfounded.
She turned to say something, but the man had taken off, she said. Spit dripped down her neck and jacket.
It was one of many incidents on college campuses in the days since Donald Trump was elected president, where flashes of ugliness and hatred, and all the divisions of a wrenching, polarizing campaign have been viscerally felt.
“There were a bunch of different emotions I was feeling,” she said. “It made me feel like less of a person.”
Rappel, who is from Louisiana and is in ROTC, reported the incident to the university and to police.
On Thursday, as at many other schools, some University of Central Missouri students held an anti-Trump rally on campus.
And as at many schools, there were open tensions between students who had backed the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and those who favored Trump, and were celebrating his victory.
At Marshall University, a student tweeted on election night, “As soon as Trump hits 270 electoral votes I am grabbing the first girl I see by the p—-. #MAGA,” referencing a statement Trump was caught saying on video in 2005 about groping women, and his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Babson College leaders apologized for two male students who had driven a pickup truck around neighboring all-female Wellesley College in Massachusetts flying a Trump flag and shouting “highly offensive” remarks on Wednesday.
At New York University, someone wrote “Trump!” on the door of a room at the Tandon School of Engineering that is reserved for Muslim prayer and is used as a meeting place for Muslim students.
At San Diego State University, a student was the victim of a strong-arm robbery in a campus parking lot, and the university’s president told the campus community that police were investigating it as a hate crime because comments made to her suggested she was targeted because of her Muslim faith, including her clothing and hijab.
At the University of Central Missouri, about 200 students of various races gathered to protest Trump’s victory Thursday evening, according to Jeff Murphy, a university spokesman. Then a mostly white group of 20 Trump supporters arrived.
Christopher Cooper, a graduate student who coordinates the mentorship program at the university, helped organize the event in response to reports that students had been harassed, followed and intimidated after Trump’s victory — including Rappel — and to try to connect students who were feeling marginalized and worried about the results. (His girlfriend, for example, an immigrant, burst into tears at the news of Trump’s victory.)
Rappel got there about 15 minutes after it started and when she saw the pro-Trump students, she stood off to the side, wanting to make sure everyone stayed calm.
“I have friends on both sides,” she said.
The Daily Star Journal reported that a student speaking at the rally said that after Trump’s election, some people no longer felt safe; they had been followed, and spat upon. Then someone at the rally tossed a firecracker into the crowd, and women screamed.
“It sounded like a shotgun blast,” Cooper said.
“People ran,” Rappel said. “People thought someone was shooting or someone had a gun,” but quickly realized it was a firecracker.
Rappel said the firecracker seemed to be thrown directly at the student who was speaking while standing on a bench. A second bottle rocket was thrown. No one was hurt, Murphy said.
A Trump supporter was quoted in The Daily Star Journal as calling out that they didn’t throw the bottle rockets, telling those at the rally they did not condone it and respected the right to protest. He did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.
Cooper said counterprotesters were chanting, “Build that wall!” and, he felt, trying to antagonize the anti-Trump group. Things were getting heated, Rappel said, as they heard people chanting: “President Trump!”
“It fueled some tempers,” Rappel said.
On the flip side, some people were upset that the protest was billed as a “Not my president” rally and that people were engaging in vulgar anti-Trump chants.
Jacob Davis, a sophomore who is president of the UCM College Republicans, said his group did not support or endorse Trump and he does not think any members of his group were at the rally. But he also said the post-election anti-Trump rhetoric is confounding.
“You don’t have to like him but — it’s like saying that you want the pilot to crash the plane without realizing you’re on the plane too,” Davis said, quoting something he had heard this week.
Cooper, Rappel and others stood between the two groups to separate them, not wanting things to escalate. Rappel was trying to calm down the protesters, telling them, “People antagonize you just so they can get a reaction. Don’t give them a reaction.” They calmed down and talked about Trump’s first 100 days in office, about strategies and forging alliances.
Cooper said the group decided to move to another location to avoid being provoked, but when they were crossing the street to leave, trucks tried to push through the crowd.
“That’s when it got kind of crazy,” Rappel said. “People were driving around in these big trucks with bright lights, driving around the crowd, antagonizing people.” They were laughing at the group.
“At one point they actually drove through the crowd. No one got hurt,” she said, but some were frightened. A friend of hers went straight home to her parents’ house. “Those big lights and people circling around the crowd, it was like something in the movies,” she said. “Her nerves were real shaken up. I’m still shaken up. This is crazy.”
Davis said, “Never have I seen anything like this.”
He said he was glad the police were there so that things didn’t escalate further, and said the fireworks were clearly dangerous. “We got emails about black students on campus being spit on, called racial slurs. That’s unacceptable,” he said.
Rappel and other students met with the university’s president, Charles Ambrose, to talk about safety concerns.
And the night ended, unexpectedly, with conversations, Cooper said. The two sides were broken up into little groups in front of the student union, talking, asking questions, and even finding some common ground.
He said some Trump supporters said they just want to make American great again, and Cooper pointed out that for some groups — including black people — the past wasn’t all that great. “We got to hear why each side felt the way they did,” he said.
At moments, he said, there were real connections made: “It was beautiful.”
“We’re going to move forward,” Cooper said. “We’re not happy with the presidential election results, but we’re going to band together and do the best we can for the community.”
Rappel said: “I want to make sure everyone is safe on both sides, whether a Trump supporter or not, whether you’re my friend or not, I want to make sure everyone is safe.”