On Friday afternoon, Jim Gilles, a demonstrator from Indiana, protested the BLM movement on Greene Street. Holding up signs that read “BLM are racist thugs” and “BLM: rent a riot,” Gilles' protest drew the attention of students who, countered his protest for at least three hours.
Referring to himself as "Brother Jim," Gilles said his purpose was to “melt some snowflakes.”
Gilles was in Columbia from Evansville, Indiana, for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“It was a free day, the communist governor of North Carolina shut down all the schools and it’s kind of, it's a mess up there, so I came down to South Carolina,” Gilles said.
A crowd of students surrounded him for most of the afternoon, chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “No justice, no peace.”
A couple of students with instruments were a part of the crowd, playing songs in the man’s ear.
Trey Hogan, a first-year bass trombone player, heard about the protester in his band group chat.
“I came out here before, and then I just thought, ‘I’m going to go get my trombone just to mess with him,'” Hogan said.
Hogan said he recognizes the protester is allowed to come onto campus but said that “he shouldn’t [have] come.”
Brian Glynn, the owner of Village Idiot, mentioned Hogan on Twitter, saying he will give him "free slices at @IdiotPizza for you until you graduate. Or if you change majors 40 times I'll honor it until you're 25. After that you're cut off and we'll talk about what you're doing with your life."
Alexa Gaskins, a first-year nursing student, said she was surprised by all the students countering Gilles' protest.
"I was just starting in light, taking the picture in front of [him] as a joke. And then I just started saying stuff to him because I was like, 'You are in the wrong, sir. This is really just bad.' And then I came back from my lunch and there are still many people here. So, it really warms my heart that people here at USC really have our back and have different people of minorities' back. It really makes me more comfortable staying here," Gaskins said.
Ayaan Hawkins, a first-year nursing major, believes that the protestor shouldn't be allowed on campus because he wasn't being respectful about his stance.
"If he wasn't disrespectful about it, yeah, he can say what he wants, but this is human rights, this isn't a political issue, this is human rights, and he's telling us that we're sub-human, but we're not," Hawkins said.
USCPD was present for most of the afternoon, watching from across the street. At one point, a student was pulled aside by police after kicking the stand of the man’s sign.
Gilles said he was not concerned with the pandemic, saying, “masks are totally worthless, and if you think they’re beneficial, then I shouldn’t have to wear a mask if you’re wearing a mask if your mask works.”
Student Body President Issy Rushton said she thinks it’s “absolutely disgusting” and doesn’t reflect anything that the university stands for.
“We stand for diversity, equity and inclusion. We celebrate and love all of our Gamecocks. And this man directly went against that today,” Rushton said.
Jordan Franklin, a second-year pharmaceutical science student, said he shouldn’t be here even though this is a public campus.
“He should be stopped, that just because this is an open campus, we should not allow hate speech because that is what this is, out here on our campus, and that something should be done about this,” Franklin said.
Around 3:50 p.m., the protestor was escorted off of Greene St. by USCPD. Police declined to state why. Students dispersed soon after.
Erin Slowey contributed to the reporting in this article.