SMC students rally to demand justice for Michael Brown
A group of Santa Monica College students lead a protest on campus yesterday afternoon demanding justice in the case of Michael Brown and bringing attention to the injustices felt by African Americans everywhere. The shooting of Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri has galvanized protests nationwide after Wilson was acquitted by a grand jury last Monday.
Lead by the new associated students director of student advocacy, Tekoah (TK) Flory, the students started their demonstration outside in the rain, chanting “hands up, don’t shoot”, offering words of empowerment for, as Flory phrased it, the “black and brown” community on campus.
Letters in marker on the students’ signs smeared in bright streaks of blue, red, pink and purple from the afternoon’s downpour, but their chants were clearly heard as they marched from outside of the campus theater into the Cayton center.
With their fists in the air, the group began their discussion with the now famous 4.5 minutes of silence, representing the 4 and a half hours that Michael Brown was left laying in the street after he was shot by Wilson.
An SMC student and activist, Minh-Triet Dao then informed the public of the Ferguson solidarity movement’s purpose, including their urge to our current leaders to ensure the safety and justice of its citizens. He explained that blacks have been overwhelmingly targeted by laws and police because of their “blackness.” “We have not yet found peace because we do not yet know justice,” he said, adding that, “We are living an American horror story.”
Flory then stated the protest’s demands, which included the immediate arrest of Wilson, the dismissal of Ferguson county prosecutor, Robert McCullough, and the demilitarization of police forces among others. He also announced the demand that the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, release the names of every officer “involved with killing black people within the last five years,” Flory stated.
Police monitored the protest from afar in the quad and outside of the Cayton Center after their march. There was a possibility that the protest would expand as it continued, to which Sergeant Jere Romano responded, “That’s fine. It’s the associated students’ space…and they control it.”
His only concern was to make sure a fight did not break out between people with differing views.”Our whole mission is to try to keep the peace. As long as it’s conducive to learning,” he said. Inside, Flory separated the group into two sections, those who “identify themselves as black, and the other group of allies and other people of color.”
According to him, the groups were segregated because “we have to identify this as a black issue, and so we need to hold space for folks directly affected and also have communication around from other people of color and allies can get involved and be apart of the struggle,” said Flory.
In these separated groups, Flory instructed that the demonstrators express how each of them were feeling at that moment. The comments that people heard, however, were instructed by Flory to stay private; “What happens here stays here, what is learned here leaves here. Protect the person who you heard it from.”
Mothers spoke out, including program leader and head counselor for the Black Collegians Club, Sherri Bradford shared the reaction of her sons when they heard the verdict. “When I looked at my eight-year-old son, I saw the emotions on his face. It was fear and pure disbelief,” said Bradford.
One SMC student, Rodrigo, who declined to state his last name, pointed at the officers outside of the center and said, “They’re mocking people that are inside, saying ‘well, they’re comfortable now’.” He added, “We might not be violent, but at some point we might have to encounter the possibly that we will have to get violent with these people [the police]. And if we do, we do,” he said.
Previous Director of Outreach, Cassandra Ramirez explained in response to this student’s comment that the SMC police “are our allies as well.” She added, “We want to treat them with the exact same respect we are treating each other, and keep that conversation open.”
There were comments of disbelief that this social problem is still present in our generation. Craig Walter, a co-chair on a Facilities Planning Subcommittee, explained that the issues of Ferguson are reminiscent of civil rights marches from the 1960’s. “This something that is historical whether or not they recognize that, you have to recognize that,” said Walter.