University News

Students protest Ferguson grand jury decision

Black student groups organize teach-in, protest against decision not to indict Darren Wilson

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Students lie in front of Sayles Hall in solidarity with victims of police brutality, including Michael Brown, the black teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri. Multiple black student groups helped organize events Monday in response to the national outcry.

Around 200 community members gathered on the Main Green Monday for a “die-in” protest in response to a grand jury’s decision last week not to indict police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri. Alpha Phi Alpha, a historically black fraternity, also held a teach-in on the verdict later in the day.

The Black Board, an organization of black student group leaders, decided to respond to the decision not to indict Wilson, and Black Student Union President Jordan Ferguson ’17 said he brought up the idea of a die-in protest. The students lay on the sidewalk and stairs in front of Sayles Hall from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. holding papers with the names, death dates and ages of victims of police brutality.

The group coordinated with the Black Ivy Coalition to time the protest to occur simultaneously with ones at Harvard, Penn and Yale. A protest also took place Monday at Stanford University.

“It’s certainly very moving,” said Evan Reese ’16, who passed the protest on his way to the Blue Room. “I think that people are very correct in pointing out that we have a deeply racist justice system.”

Gwen Mugodi ’18, who participated in the protest, said, “The main problem isn’t that there’s police brutality. It’s the problems underlying it.”

“When police officers see young black men, they see them only as a danger to society,” she wrote in a follow-up email to The Herald. “After all this, people still say this isn’t about race, and yet there are many ways in which race overtly and subconsciously shapes our lives.”

“Race matters just as much as it did 50 years ago, maybe even more, because people aren’t willing to talk about it,” she said.

“We shouldn’t only know about the Trayvon Martins and Michael Browns,” Ferguson said, encouraging those who participated in the protest to search the names on the signs they held. “They all have powerful stories, and these aren’t isolated incidents.”

Students will also recognize racial injustices with a day of silence today. Ferguson said he invites participating students to identify themselves by wearing all black. He said he is sending an email to administrators so they can inform faculty members of students’ decisions to be silent.

Around 30 students attended the teach-in and discussed the backgrounds of both Wilson and the case’s prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, as well as the evidence surrounding the Aug. 9 shooting that was presented to the grand jury.

While the fraternity originally planned after the verdict was announced to hold a forum on another topic as a part of its “Alpha week,” fraternity alums convinced members to hold an open, campus-wide discussion about it, said Godwin Tsado ’16, a frat brother who spoke at the teach-in.

“This is something so important to document, especially because we’re a historically black fraternity whose goal is to raise up young black men,” he said.

The grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson elicited protests across the country. A group called End Police Brutality PVD organized a march of about 400 people Nov. 25 protesting the verdict, WPRI reported. Many protesters climbed over a fence and ran onto highway I-95 near Exit 20. Five were arrested for disorderly conduct and held overnight at the state police department’s Lincoln barracks, WPRI reported. The five suspects faced charges in court Nov. 26.