Police sirens echoed throughout Bosco Plaza Tuesday night, just as a group bowed their heads for a moment of silence to remember African-Americans killed by law enforcement.
Several people braved the 20 degree temperatures to gather for the event. The remembrance, although brought about by the police shooting of Michael Brown, expanded its focus on several other Americans shot and killed by the police.
Justice Davis, sophomore in marketing and Black Student Union president, said the recent failure to indict former Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Brown is indicative of a larger problem facing the country.
“The remembrance is not just for Michael Brown, but for all the victims of violence who have been targeted by law enforcement,” Davis said. “It’s not just a Michael Brown problem, it’s not just a Ferguson problem. This is a nationwide issue.”
From 2005 to 2012, almost twice a week, a black person was killed by a white officer, according to FBI statistics. Davis said she hopes people understand that the problem transcends race and is a human rights issue.
“Black people’s lives are taken unjustly by law enforcement,” Davis said. “We’re not playing victims. This is the truth. This is the reality of the world we live in.”
Pastor Jahvelle Rhone, of Manhattan Christian Fellowship, opened the remembrance with a message of unity before leading the group into a prayer.
“We have to realize the time we’re living in,” Rhone said. “We have to sober up and open up and we have to do it together.”
Members of the Black Student Union took turns addressing the crowd, bringing up notable incidents of police shootings of black Americans who were later found to be innocent of any wrongdoing.
Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland, was shot and killed by police last month while playing with a toy cap gun in a park. Although police said they ordered Rice to drop the gun, a video was released that showed officers shooting the child two seconds after they arrived at the park.
Caleb Taylor, senior in biology, said he attended the remembrance because he believed in the cause.
“I feel like it’s important to express your opinion,” Taylor said. “We all have freedom of speech. I believe Gandhi said it best, you must ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.’ So if you see something wrong, be that change, be that person who makes a difference.”
Taylor said one of the ways the situation can be improved is through better representation in the police.
“A lot of times, police officers aren’t from the community,” Taylor said. “They just work in that community, so they don’t have ties with the people and they don’t know necessarily different communities.”
Davis addressed the crowd about the Ferguson riots. Although she said she condemns the violence and destruction, she wants people to know where the anger comes from.
“You ask why these people tear up police cars, why they burn down police cars, why they’re rioting throughout these communities,” Davis said. “I’ll tell you why. These people are tired of the conditions. They’re tired of the situations and stories like this that happens to their kids.”
She said the frustration comes from being targeted unfairly.
“Even Martin Luther King, who was a peaceful protester, even he said ‘riots are the voice of the unheard,'” Davis said. “This is what they are. This is why they’re doing what they’re doing. I don’t condone it at all, but I do know why they’re doing it. They’re trying to get their voice heard because obviously the court system isn’t listening.”