‘We are here for you’: Hundreds of LSU students protest in wake of sexual assault scandals

Hundreds of LSU students marched through campus Friday afternoon, demanding that the university clean house and stop protecting students — especially athletes — who commit sexual assaults, at the expense of justice for survivors.

The protest, led by the student-run Tigers Against Sexual Assault, featured more than a dozen students who told a crowd of about 250 people about their own sexual assaults and their subsequent struggles to get justice. One woman spoke about her fear of continuing to work in the LSU Athletics Department; another recounted lengthy delays between reporting an assault and an investigation beginning; and one man spoke about how police laughed at him when he reported a sexual assault.

“We want the resignation of every official who has covered up sexual assault allegations,” called the students who organized the protest in front of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. “We’re coming after them.”

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Among those who spoke to the crowd: Samantha Brennan and Elisabeth Andries, who were featured in a USA Today investigation this week about LSU’s failings to seriously follow through on reports of sexual assault from students. The article triggered an outcry across campus.

As Brennan and Andries introduced themselves as being “from the article,” the crowd cheered.

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Students and community members gather on the Parade Grounds before marching to the PMAC in protest over the schoolÕs handling of sexual assault, Friday, November 20, 2020, on LSU’s campus in Baton Rouge, La.

“It’s super empowering — I’m getting so many messages of encouragement,” said Brennan, who flew in from San Diego to attend.

Brennan has accused former LSU star running back Derrius Guice of taking a partially nude photo of her and sharing it without her permission. She has repeatedly requested copies of the report she made to LSU Police about the incident at the time, but LSU has refused to hand over unredacted records that name Guice.

Guice, who was drafted by the Washington Football Team in 2018, was arrested this August on domestic violence charges.

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Another woman who has accused Guice, who is now 23, of raping her when she was at LSU also attended the protest. A former LSU tennis player, she hasn’t shared her name publicly yet, but she said she wanted to be there in person, especially to connect with Brennan.

“A really terrible situation brought us together,” the former tennis player said.

Guice’s attorney has denied the rape allegations.

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Students and community members gather at the PMAC in protest over the schoolÕs handling of sexual assault, Friday, November 20, 2020, on LSU’s campus in Baton Rouge, La.

The former tennis player who accused Guice of rape is part of a lawsuit against the NCAA, alleging that the organization has not done enough to prevent sexual assaults and violence at universities. She said her father reported her rape to LSU Tennis Coach Mike Sell, but that Sell did not believe it.

Sell and his wife, Julia, who also coaches the tennis team, have been under fire this week. Another former LSU tennis player, Jade Lewis, accused them of looking them other way amid multiple reports that former LSU football player Drake Davis was physically abusive toward her. Davis pleaded guilty to two counts of battery and one count of violation of a protective order.

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The Sells released a statement this week denying that they received allegations of abuse without acting on them. But at the protest Friday, former LSU tennis player Kennan Johnson called for them to be fired. 

“What’s the point of Title IX if it’s not going to be enforced?” Johnson said.

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Former LSU women’s tennis student athlete Kennan Johnson speaks as students and community members gather in protest over the schoolÕs handling of sexual assault, Friday, November 20, 2020, on LSU’s campus in Baton Rouge, La.

Andries, who said she was sexually assaulted by an LSU fraternity member in her freshman year, said the protest came at an important time. She said she found out this week that the student who assaulted her and who was suspended for two semesters after a Title IX investigation is asking to return to LSU now that his suspension is over. Before his suspension, she said struggled to get administrators to move her assailant out of engineering classes they shared.

“It’s not about the person who assaulted me; it’s about me having access to an equal education,” Andries said.

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Students and community members march from the Parade Grounds to the PMAC in protest over the schoolÕs handling of sexual assault, Friday, November 20, 2020, on LSU’s campus in Baton Rouge, La.

With coronavirus cases on the rise in Louisiana and health care officials urging people to prepare for a third wave of the virus in the state, organizers asked that everyone wear masks. They wiped off a microphone with cleaners between each use.

Organizers from Tigers Against Sexual Assault asked protesters to keep the pressure on LSU administrators and to hold them accountable for seeing through changes that will make campus safer. Angel Upshaw, a co-founder of the group, said she and her fellow organizers have seen an outpouring of interest and support this week.

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She said she wanted to assure all victims that they remain loved, valued and important.

“We want survivors to know that if administration doesn’t hear you and value you, we are here for you,” Upshaw said.

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