Students and others took to Philadelphia streets Monday — literally stopping traffic at 34th and Walnut and 33rd and Market streets — to protest in the wake of the grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
The protest, organized by Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation, began at 1 p.m. at DuBois College House. Before the march, event organizer and College senior Emanuel Martinez spoke to those that were gathering from the steps of the Du Bois entrance. “Even though students of color are a minority at Penn, we want to show that our voices are loud,” he said.
A banner in front of him read, “No Justice, No Peace.”
Members of African Rhythms and other students handed out buckets — make-shift drums that would animate and energize the students during the march.
Protesters walked in fierce solidarity, responding to the leaders’ chants: “No justice, no peace. No racist police.”
“I just don’t want my son, the child of an Ivy League graduate, to walk down the street in fear for his life,” a student who preferred to remain anonymous said at the protest.
The group grew as the protestors made their way through Penn’s campus. They stopped outside major buildings, including the high rises and the Quad, chanting for the buildings’ occupants to “walk out for Mike Brown.” Police and a few photographers trailed the procession down Locust Walk.
About 100 protesters marched into the Huntsman Forum and Houston Market. Inside Houston Market, dining employees clapped and shared embraces with students as the protesters filed out.
“This is about more than just the Mike Brown decision and Ferguson protests,” protestor and College of Arts and Sciences freshman Gomian Konneh said in an email. “It’s about exposing racial prejudices behind the hyper-decriminalization of black and brown bodies ... I think it’s basically about reinforcing the idea that black lives matter too.”
About 20 police officers gathered on College Green, watching the protest.
“Hands up, don’t shoot,” the protesters — who now numbered more than 100 — shouted as they marched onto College Green. Stopping in front of Van Pelt, they chanted facing the library: “Penn, who do you serve, who do you protect?”
When the group reached 34th and Walnut streets, the protesters gathered at the center of the intersection, laying down on their backs for four and a half minutes of silence in memory of Brown. Protest organizers said the time represented the four and a half hours Brown laid on the street after the shooting, before his body was taken away.
There was a still silence at the intersection; the protesters’ harmonious — yet weighty — repose was surrounded by the police’s tense vigilance. The only noise at the scene came from a police radio.
Police officers surrounded the protesters about 20 feet away. When officers tried to use their bicycles to block off a lane for turning vehicles, protesters moved quickly to lay down and block the passage.
After the silence, they chanted a call-and-response led by Martinez: “We are not just angry. We are not just doing something carelessly. We are building our power.”
“And we are going to take — by force — what is not being given to us,” the protesters continued. “Justice.”
Protest organizers declined to comment for this article.
The protest continued to 33rd and Market streets, where participants chanted for Drexel students to join the march. Another four and a half minutes of silence followed as the protestors laid down on the street again before disbanding.
Numerous protests took place on college campuses across the country yesterday. At Harvard, protesters blocked traffic in Harvard Square seeking justice for Brown. Yale students stood in solidarity for four and a half minutes earlier today.
On Tuesday at 12 p.m., a group of Penn Law students plan to protest at the 34th Street entrance to Penn Law School. They plan to lie in silence for four and a half minutes as well.Comments powered by Disqus
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