A group of student protesters walked onto the field on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at Colby College, halting the school's homecoming football game against Hamilton College. Credit: Courtesy of Mike Violette

WATERVILLE, Maine — More than 30 student protesters quietly took the field Saturday afternoon at Colby College, halting the school’s homecoming football game against Hamilton College just before kickoff.

A recording of the game from Northeast Sports Network, which broadcasts college and high school sports across New England, shows the group walking onto Seaverns Field at the Harold Alfond Stadium during the national anthem.  

One protester spoke into a megaphone, though the message was inaudible in the recording of the broadcast.

“I don’t know if they’re going to have to go out and round these people up and get them off the field or what, but this is a protest,” game broadcaster Mike Violette said during the event. “And I’ll tell you what my first hit was — [it] was the fact that they came out and disrespected the national anthem right off, by not only walking out there during it, but not removing hats during the anthem.”

The group eventually sat on the ground and remained there for 57 minutes, then stood and walked off the field. The game, set to kick off at 1 p.m., was delayed by an hour and a half.  

It turned out the group was protesting unnamed details of life on campus.

“This past Saturday, Oct. 2, the start of the scheduled football game on Colby’s campus was delayed by 90 minutes when a group of Colby students refused to leave the field,” Colby officials said in a statement Monday afternoon. “While their motivations were unclear to spectators, the college eventually learned that they intended to express their dissatisfaction with various aspects of campus life.”

The protesters did not carry signs or don clothing explaining their reasons for protest.

At first, Violette assumed it might have been a homecoming ceremony, he said Monday, adding the majority of people in the crowd appeared frustrated.

“There were certainly people who were extremely ticked off who were yelling loudly to get the kids off the field, yelling, ‘Where’s Colby security?’ ‘Where’s the Waterville Police Department?’” he said. “I think Colby being Colby, there was a fraction of people who figured out what was going on and were fine with it.”

At one point, a student working in the press box approached Violette and the videographer, saying administration had requested that a slide be put on the screen, away from the field filled with protesters. In the recording of the broadcast, the camera pans to a shot of people walking on campus.

Violette said he heard different reasons for the protesters’ appearance. One student indicated sexual assault, while another mentioned dining and housing as the issues.

“I just thought not only was it ridiculous, it was ridiculous that the college did nothing,” Violette said. “The college made no announcement to the crowd over the public address system about what was going on. There was no apology for it or anything like that. It’s like they were fine with it, they want to be as woke as these kids are and just let it roll.”

Students have every right to protest, Violette made clear on Monday.

“I’m all for civil disobedience,” he said. “I’m all for protest. … The kids on the football team have every right to play a football game as well. Their interests were not cared about, nor the parents who are paying tuition. It was an inconvenience for everybody.”

Colby officials agreed with the right to protest, but said Monday interfering with activities is against policy.

“Colby fully supports the rights of all members of the community to express their views, including through protest, and our policies are very clear about this important value. However, our policies also convey that members of our community cannot significantly disrupt or interfere with the operations of the College or the activities of other community members,” officials said.

To add insult to the delayed start, Colby College lost, 27-14, to Hamilton College.