By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
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By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"The worst thing you could say was that bad language was used. But racism, that's just a joke. There was yelling back and forth. White boy this, nigger that. But it was as far away from racism as possible.
"Of course they yell racism. If I see it from their eyes, the only way they can get out of being arrested is to say it was racism."
On Friday, April 21, a newly formed coalition called Students Against Racism marched at ASU. It was exactly one week after the brawl. This was the third day in a row that the group had rallied. The freshman co-ed who had witnessed the very first assault on Sean Hedgecock a week earlier watched the protesters in wonder.
"How can they say it was racism?" she asked. "This whole thing started when one white guy hit another white guy."
The night before, representatives of the minority rights coalition and black leaders met with ASU President J. Russell Nelson and presented a list of demands. One of the reforms sought is a mandatory anti-racism program to be given to all fraternity members regardless of ethnic background so that they might begin to grasp the finer points of prejudice. (This is similar to courses on some campuses where fraternity men undergo training to learn precisely what rape is.)
Nick Merkerson, a sophomore, also watched the march. He is a member of the black fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma.
Merkerson was not shocked by the racial nature of the fraternity-row brawl.
"When people find out I'm a student, their first question is, `Do you play football, do you run track? They never ask what my major is. I'm not an athlete. They just think I must be because I'm black. This place is ridiculous."
Merkerson said that there is little, if any, mixing between black and white Greeks.
"Lots of those things the white houses are into aren't things we do. We don't have large amounts of alcohol at our parties. Volleyball, sun 'n' fun, get a tan, that's not for us."
Because of lack of mutual understanding, it took some three years for the Phi Beta Sigma house to be admitted to the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) at Arizona State. Three days after the brawl in front of the SAE house, the black fraternity was finally voted into the IFC. The victory was tempered by the aftermath of the melee.
Members of the black fraternity from ten western states were holding their regional conference in the Valley as the demonstrators marched at ASU.
Many national conventions canceled their bookings into Phoenix to protest when then-Governor Evan Mecham's rescinded the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Ironically, the local president of Phi Beta Sigma, Warren Brown, had persuaded his black brothers to book their regional conference into the Valley.
"After Mecham was impeached," said Brown, "I argued that it was unfair to penalize all of Arizona for one man's actions."
So 123 black fraternity members from ten western states came to Phoenix. And four black students were surrounded by hundreds of white fraternity boys screaming for blood. The newspapers all ran articles about how Evan Mecham was once again running for the governor's chair. Only this time, Ev Mecham's attorney is Phoenix's Donald MacPhearson who also represents Martin Luther King's assassin James Earl Ray.
Chief Bartosh said there have been eleven arrests from the weekend's disturbance and numerous citations. His department is under investigation and the university president signed an agreement with the demonstrators to institute racial reforms at ASU.
And down at the statehouse, Republican senators still refuse to pass a bill that would honor Martin Luther King Jr. with a paid holiday.
In a big office far removed from the events on fraternity row, Senate Majority leader Robert Usdane holds court.
Martin Luther King? Martin Luther King? What's all this Martin Luther King business? C'mere. Let me tell you what's important down here at the Senate.