The sound of a bongo drum and chants of “We can’t breathe!” filled the evening air Thursday. Signs asking for justice and resolution were held above their heads as the sun began to set.
Almost 50 people of various ages and races gathered together in Bosco Student Plaza to march and protest against the killing of unarmed, black men, women and children by police. The protest was organized by the Black Student Union.
On Wednesday, a Staten Island grand jury failed to indict a New York City police officer on murder charges. The officer used a chokehold on unarmed Eric Garner in July, which directly caused Garner’s death. Despite multiple videos capturing the event and a police ban on chokeholds, jurors took less than a day to decide there was not enough evidence to hold a trial.
As one student struggled to lift a large sign above her head, Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and dean of students, helped to hold it high.
Bosco said he believes that what the Black Student Union and their supporters are doing is a tremendous service to the university.
“There is a bit of Ferguson everywhere,” Bosco said. “The only way to eradicate racism of all kinds is through education and dialogue. What better place than at the university with my students.”
James Adams, sophomore in business administration, said he was there to show support for the message.
“It’s all about equality,” Adams said. “We’re all Americans. We should all have the same rights. Black, white, everyone should have the same rights. Children are dying. Someone’s child is dead. We should be thinking about the child and not just the race of the child.”
In May of 2010, 7-year-old girl, Aiyana Jones, was shot and killed during a raid by the Detroit police. Officer Joseph Weekley was charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment with a gun, though his first trial ended in a mistrial. In October of this year, a judge dismissed the involuntary manslaughter charge, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The protesters began at Bosco Plaza but moved across campus to North Manhattan Avenue before arriving at their destination at Triangle Park.
Daijah Porchia, freshman in theater, said the lack of charges brought against police in these incidents is an indicator of a larger problem.
“I think we know from things like the church bombings, where the four little girls were killed, to Emmett Till being beaten and killed,” Porchia said. “Just because someone goes through the justice system does not mean that justice is served. I feel like that’s one of the most important things we can learn today. Just because somebody goes to court does not mean they were tried fairly.”
Porchia mentioned the case of Victor White III. After being handcuffed, officers from Louisiana’s New Iberia Sheriff’s Department reported that White refused to exit a patrol vehicle, somehow produced a handgun and committed suicide by firing a round into his back.
The coroner’s report found that White was actually shot in the right side of his chest and had abrasions on his face. Despite the report contradicting the police’s story, the coroner supported it and ruled the death a suicide, according to The Washington Post.
Devan Brown, sophomore in pre-psychology, said the issue is one that should trouble all Americans.
“We’re out here to make them aware,” Brown said. “This affects everyone.”
After the protest march, a dialogue about racial inequality and conflict was held at the Leadership Studies Building. Helping facilitate the conversation were Justice Davis, junior in marketing and BSU president, and Bryon Williams, assistant director for admissions, BSU adviser and graduate in student development.
The conversations addressed why there is racial divide and inequality. The conversations also addressed solutions and how to keep the discussion going.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Dec. 5 at 10:22 a.m. to reflect updated information.