HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Organizers of Marshall University’s 6th Annual Unity Walk say Monday’s event is more significant this year due to the current political climate.

Maurice Cooley, associate vice president for intercultural affairs at Marshall and the founding organizer of the event, told MetroNews there’s been a lot of “disorganization” at protests in the past year.

“This year is even more important in previous years because we need to break down the wall of tension that has been built up on our country,” Cooley said.

Since 2016, some American athletes have silently protested police brutality and racial inequality during the playing of the National Anthem at sporting events. Critics have said the protests are disrespectful to the American flag.

Most recently, Vice President Mike Pence left the Colts-49ers game Sunday night after players took a knee during the anthem.

Cooley said the Unity Walk, set to take place Monday at 4 p.m. in Huntington, is about accepting people for their beliefs.

“We must come together, have respect for each other despite of our differences of our races, our ethnic differences, our religious differences, our cultural beliefs and our lifestyles,” he said.

Up to 1,200 students, alumni and others are expected to participate in the walk.

Athletic teams, clubs, Greek organizations, resident halls and other student organizations plan to represent themselves by carrying large banners.

Cooley said they hope to teach students the importance of unification.

“They must take that with them as much as they possibly can to be future global leaders, to carry the message of unification among all people, among all nations, all of the time, every day,” he said.

Participants will gather at the Marshall Recreation Center in Huntington at 3:30 p.m. Groups will then split in half and march around the perimeter of the campus, then meet at Old Main to continue to the march to the main celebration at the Memorial Student Center where the 2017 homecoming court will be announced.

Live music, food and games will follow the event.

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