Action after Ferguson: Students Standing Up For Justice

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The Ferguson grand jury declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. Protests ensued across the country. Atlanta University students took to the streets in mostly peaceful demonstrations in Atlanta. A Morehouse student was arrested during #ShutItDownATL demonstrations later in the evening yesterday. The Aug. 9 shooting death and the non-indictment added to what has become an increasingly persistent frustration among many Americans: police violence. These feelings and frustrations are not unfounded. For months, students have been vocal about the manner in which the police treat people of color and the racial undertones often associated with these occurrences. Brown’s death, coupled with a rash of police-related deaths in recent months, is emblematic of a problem that has a historical lineage. As The Root reported last year in their profile of 20 police-related shootings of unarmed black men, the occurrences are nothing new.

Students are frustrated.

On Aug. 15, more than a week after Brown’s death, student leaders at Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta University huddled to talk action. “We are here to devise a strategy that will both lend our voices and support to this issue, but also create something that will last far beyond the commonplace social media campaigns,” Morehouse SGA President Michael Gatewood said at the time. “While we want to effectively utilize social media, we also want to make sure that we are targeting the issue at its core.” The meeting came days before students, leaders, and professors met on campus for a forum following Brown’s death. If there was any indication of the tone and pain filled in the air, Professor Marc Lamont Hill captured it. “Why do they keep killing us?” Hill asked, near tears as he spoke about his initial reaction to Brown’s death. Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 4.02.24 PM

Powershift, a panel hosted by The Maroon Tiger and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. featured a panel of Morehouse professors who led a town-hall meeting to discuss next steps on Ferguson.

Powershift, a panel hosted by The Maroon Tiger and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. featured a panel of Morehouse professors who led a town-hall meeting on August 28, 2014 to discuss next steps on Ferguson.

Less than a week later, following the lead of a number of colleges and universities across the country, including Howard University, North Carolina A&T, and Bethune-Cookman, the AUC schools stood in solidarity with Ferguson in a “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” photo campaign. The symbolism was rich. And yet, the act was insufficient to quell the emptiness of many who believed the act did nothing to bring substantive change. Harold Merrell, a junior Business Administration major, took part in the campaign but counseled skepticism. “Overall, what does it really do,” he said. “It’s not taking any action, it’s not making any progress.” Students hit the ground running. A meeting between the NAACP Chapters at Spelman, Morehouse, and Clark Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department weeks after Brown’s death yielded an appeal that, among many things, called for systemic police reform. “We would ask for the APD to release to release an official public statement addressing the City of Atlanta on the current procedures and future actions that will prevent police misconduct,” the statement read. An entire month would pass while a Grand Jury in Ferguson met to decide whether or not to indict Officer Darren Wilson. During this time, the world learned of John Crawford, Vonderritt Myers, and Tamir Rice. The frustrations were again boiling over.

A letter to the Atlanta Police Department originally appeared in September 5, 2014 issue of The Maroon Tiger Newpaper entitled "Special Ferguson Issue: Where Do We Go From Here"

A letter to the Atlanta Police Department originally appeared in September 5, 2014 issue of The Maroon Tiger Newpaper entitled “Special Ferguson Issue: Where Do We Go From Here”

“We are here because we deserve to be here,” Spelman student Joi Porter said, speaking to gathered students before marching to the CNN Center yesterday afternoon. “And this is not up for debate. We have to care about the lives of everyone whether you’re gay, straight, trans, or otherwise because the reality is our black lives deserve to be here.” What has shocked so many about the Brown case is both the frequency in which these incidents have happened and the seeming impunity on the part of law enforcement. Mother Jones reported a few days ago on the rarity it is that police officers are convicted. Still, this fact has only served to mount frustrations. “I am outraged but I am not shocked,” Morehouse junior Darrius Atkins said while marching with more than 300 students yesterday afternoon. “We have to get to a place where injustice shocks us. We are not there yet.”

“Where are our black leaders?”

Monday night, Morehouse and Spelman College students stood anxiously awaiting the grand jury decision on the steps of King Chapel. Fifty students had gathered together and it seemed clear among those attending that the prospects of an indictment were slim. Pessemism was yet abound. Some students were underwhelmed with the lack of tangible action among the AUC community. Forderick Fowler, Senior CTEMS major expressed his concerns. “This is my third time being involved in a social justice movement like this” Fowler said. “First it was Troy Davis, then there was Trayvon Martin… and now there’s Mike Brown. My main question is [for] the students of the AUC: ‘Where are our Black leaders?’ There are no organized movements. It’s 2014, we can’t rely on Al Sharpton or Jessie Jackson anymore—we can make more steps like that…but we aren’t doing it. I wasn’t surprised about the verdict because at the end of the day, it happens all the time. My question is: when are we really going to do something about it?” Actions would take place on the campus of Morehouse and at Clark Atlanta University on Tuesday afternoon. At Morehouse, students gathered at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to ring the bell near Sale Hall. The bell, when rung, is a ‘call to action’ of sorts that has a long history stemming from some of the most tumultuous moments of the Civil Rights Movement. Less than an hour later, students from the three institutions and members of the community moved toward  the CNN Center to protest what one student said was the, “disposability of black bodies.”

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A candle light prayer vigil was organized by the Morehouse SGA and Chapel Assistants for students to stand in solidarity with the Brown family and Ferguson, Missouri. Photos by Senior Staff Photographer Winston Cash

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A candle light prayer vigil was organized by the Morehouse SGA and Chapel Assistants for students to stand in solidarity with the Brown family and Ferguson, Missouri. Photos by Senior Staff Photographer Winston Cash

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A candle light prayer vigil was organized by the Morehouse SGA and Chapel Assistants for students to stand in solidarity with the Brown family and Ferguson, Missouri. Photos by Senior Staff Photographer Winston Cash

 

• “Riot” • A photo posted by A T I B A | Photography (@parkers.camera) on

• “Riot” •

A photo posted by A T I B A | Photography (@parkers.camera) on


 

• “Riot” • A photo posted by A T I B A | Photography (@parkers.camera) on

At CNN, students gathered and pledged long-term action. “Nobody will function properly because an injustice has been done,” one protester said.


 

Editor’s note: After the CNN march, our reporters followed the #SHUTITDOWNATL rally and were on the front lines of  Tuesday night’s action. See more here:

Right now in Atlanta at #Ferguson protests. Our own @creative.person is on the ground.

A photo posted by The Maroon Tiger (@themaroontiger) on


 

Amazing footage from our own @quaeritismagnitudo last night at #Ferguson demonstrations in Atlanta.

A video posted by The Maroon Tiger (@themaroontiger) on

Contributors to this story: Darren Martin, Jared Loggins, Jerrel Floyd, Annick Laurent, Keon McKay, Winston Cash, and Jayson Overby

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