Students respond to Ferguson shooting

By Marie MacCune

Students at the rally pose to reflect their anti-police brutality slogan, 'hands up, don't shoot'. (Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
Students at the rally pose to reflect their anti-police brutality slogan, ‘hands up, don’t shoot’. (Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Students of all races gathered around the Student Union in solidarity Wednesday against police brutality and racism in reaction to the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last month.

Together Josh Odam, Christopher Young and Danielle Laroque organized the event.

Odam a sophomore studying political science and legal studies said, “This rally is something that hits home for me because it could have been me, or my brother or my cousin. I don’t want to go to any more funerals with black mothers and black sisters crying because they lost someone to violence and racism. No more.”

“As a black community, we are like one body. It’s been a frequent occurrence, these shootings of unarmed young black men,” said senior sociology student Laroque about why she decided to become involved. “This is a way to show solidarity, to come together and make a change. That’s what we do as student activists.”

When asked why he was involved, economics major Young said, “Black lives matter. That’s all I really have to say.”

Participants wore a piece of red clothing in remembrance of Brown and listened as their fellow students took the floor to tell personal experiences of racism. Cheryl Grandison-Clark, a mathematics major, read an original poem.

Faculty members were present as well, including Armanthia Duncan, a sociology instructor, and Cameron Cox of Residential Life Services. Both spoke to students on the importance of standing up for justice.

Student Government Assoication President Vinayak Rao also attended the rally.

“I came because our Secretary of Diversity Josh Odam was organizing it and we wanted to come by and show our support,” the president said. “As a person of color and an under-represented minority, I think it is important to come together and promote equality. This is what it’s all about.”

While the majority of attendees were from UMass, students came from other parts of the Pioneer Valley to show solidarity.

Rally organizers led the crowd in chanting phrases like “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and “Ain’t no power like the power of the people because the power of the people don’t stop” and “No justice, no peace, no brutal police.”

Throughout the rally, moments of silence were held in honor of young black people killed by police.

One student speaker shouted out, “I am Emmett Till, I am Trayvon Martin, I am Mike Brown.”

Laurie Senat, a junior studying sociology, attended the rally Wednesday and said, “I feel very passionately about this issue, being Haitian-American and experiencing police brutality through my family.  My cousin Gregory was shot and killed by the police, so this is dear to my heart.”

“I hope the UMass campus knows that we are here and that they hear us, and they know we are strong people,” she added.  “When we are passionate about something they will hear us.”

Following the rally outside the Student Union, students marched through campus to the Malcolm X Cultural Center where a “We Need to Talk” meeting was held.

Catherine Ferris contributed to this report.

Marie MacCune can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @mariemaccune.