Breaking News
More () »

The Rock at MSU painted black in reflection of gun violence in America

The on-campus monument was moved to its current location on Farm Lane in 1985, but its history goes back a century earlier — and even way earlier.

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Rock, a steadfast fixture on the campus of Michigan State University, was painted black in response to Monday night's on-campus mass shooting.

"How many more?" reads the words written in red on its face. "Stay Safe MSU <3" the text below says.

The gunman, identified as 43-year-old Anthony McRae, shot and killed three people and injured five more, according to officials — the victims are all MSU students. Police say McRae had no affiliation with the university.

"We have absolutely no idea what the motive was," said Chris Rozman, deputy chief of campus police, adding that police confronted McRae before he killed himself.

About 19,000 students call Michigan State home, and about 50,000 students make up the overall campus community. Near its center is The Rock — the oldest monument at MSU, even older than the Sparty Statue and Beaumont Tower, according to the university.

The 18,000-year-old pudding stone was donated as a class gift from the Class of 1873 after being dug up from the piece of land at the corner of Michigan and Grand River avenues. It was originally called "the stone" at its dedication on May 30, 1873, near where Beaumont Tower would be built.

The Rock became known as "Engagement Rock" where men would propose during the 1940s and 1950s. The social turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s spilled — literally — onto The Rock at times, with people writing obscenities on its face. In an effort to deter graffiti, it was relocated to the police station. 

But almost instantaneous complaints prompted officials to move The Rock back to its spot that same day, the university said.

"It was moved due to the fact that when people were painting the Rock, they were also painting and damaging the surrounding trees, bushes, and sidewalks," the university said. "By moving the Rock to the location at Farm Lane, it would be settled in a clearing where it was hoped other items would be free from damage."

Students and other groups paint the rock nearly every day for boundless purposes — to promote an event, speak out on an issue, or, like today, reflect on gun violence in America. 

The shooting at Michigan State came a day before the fifth anniversary of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that killed 17 staff and students.

Credit: Kalie Marantette - WTOL

Michigan State University Deadly Shooting

Stay up to date with new information on the MSU shooting. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.

LIVE COVERAGE: Michigan State shooting updates

MSU Shooting Victims: The names of the shooting victims as they become available

Have a news tip? Email news@13onyourside.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter. Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Before You Leave, Check This Out