Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress told the Valdosta Daily Times that thousands of people who “just want to come down here and support the American flag” are expected to descend on Valdosta State University at 1:30 p.m. ET, reports NBC News.
The rally comes in response to a video that went viral of students walking on a flag last Friday to protest racism, reported NBC affiliate WALB.com.
“After further discussions with local law enforcement and in the interest of the safety of our students, faculty, and staff, Valdosta State University will suspend normal business operations for Friday, April 24,” the university said in a press release on Thursday. “Only essential employees — meaning those who have been notified by their supervisor — are to report to campus.”
A Facebook page for Friday’s event cautioned demonstrators to “please remember this is a PEACEFUL rally” and to “do as asked by local law enforcement.”
Protests have been going on all week at Valdosta State University, reported NBC affiliate WXIA in Atlanta. One woman, Air Force veteran Michelle Manhart, was briefly detained during the flag-trampling protest for taking the flag and refusing to return it; police are searching for another protester who the university says brought a gun on campus in his backpack.
The university says it will have an increased law enforcement presence for students in on-campus housing on Friday.