‘Hands Up, Walk Out’: UMass community responds to Ferguson decision

By Jason Kotoch

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(Alex Lindsay/Daily Collegian)

(Alex Lindsay/Daily Collegian)

Approximately 800 University of Massachusetts students, faculty and staff participated in a national “Hands Up, Walk Out” protest Monday afternoon.

The protest was organized in response to the Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.[liveblog]

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Participants, angered by the decision, assembled in front of the Student Union at 1:01 EST to coincide with the moment Brown was shot.

A four minute, 30 second moment of silence was held to remember the four hours and 30 minutes Brown lay dead on the sidewalk in the St. Louis suburb.

Following the moment of silence, event organizer Jasmine Bertrand-Halidy, a kinesiology major, read from a statement saying, “This is a national call to action. I am walking out in solidarity with Mike Brown and all of the innocent people who have been murdered due to state sanctioned violence. If you believe black lives matter, join me.”

Attendees cheered as speakers addressed the myriad of problems facing communities of color around the nation.

UMass graduate student Rayoung Song held a small yellow sign with the name of Phillip Pannell, a black teenager who was shot by New Jersey police in 1990. Song said that what happened in Ferguson is a national problem.

“There are so many reasons why I’m here,” Song said. “The issue of racism affects everyone.”

The event was organized by Bertrand-Halidy of Student Bridges and Maija Hall from the Center for Policy and Advocacy in coordination with a Missouri-based group called Ferguson Action, whose website reported that at least 83 schools and businesses participated in the national walk out protest.

Ahead of the event, UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy communicated his support in an email to the campus community, saying, “It will assuredly raise awareness of what Ferguson reveals about the state of racial justice in our country and will provide an opportunity for our community to come together in solidarity.”

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Subbaswamy urged faculty to accommodate students who wished to participate in the event.

Amherst resident Sovann-Malis Loeung came to the University to join the protest with her daughter.

“What do I have to do to protect my children?” Loeung said.

Loeung held a banner that read, “Justice for Carolyn,” in support of Carolyn Gardner, an Amherst High School teacher who was the target of racist threats last year.

“This issue of racism is very important and it really is a local issue,” Loeung said.

Jason Kotoch can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @jasonkotoch.

For more photos from Monday’s rally check out the Daily Collegian’s slideshow