Brandeis community expresses solidarity with MO protests

December 4, 2014

Nearly 200 members of the Brandeis community covered the Rabb steps Monday, Dec. 1, in protest of the Nov. 24 decision by a grand jury in Ferguson, MO, to not indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in the August shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. The shooting has sparked months of protests across the United States, and raised new discussions in mainstream media about police violence against racial minorities. Also on Monday night, anonymous student activists posted signs and posters all over the Brandeis campus, emblazoned with phrases including “Black Lives Matter.” A banner displaying a quote by civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois was flown over the Rabb Steps.

The banners were removed by the Brandeis administration less than a day later.

In an email to the Brandeis community, Dean of Student Life Jamele M. Adams claimed that the signs were removed because the administration was not aware they were placed by students.

The Monday protest, titled “#HandsUpWalkOut” on Facebook, was a local show of solidarity with similar events nationwide, and was organized by Ra Malika Imhotep ’15 and students Leah Hoffman, Christian Perry, Nick Hurt and Rima Chaudry from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. The Facebook event encouraged students to walk out of their classes around 12:45 p.m., in order to “stand together against police brutality and against a future where the law perpetuates and legitimizes inequality and violence.” The organizers could not be reached for comment in time before this article was published.

The event began with the organizers standing at the top of the steps, speaking on the Ferguson decision and systems of inequality designed to harm and oppress black Americans, including law enforcement. “If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable,” said the leaders of the event, quoting Justice Louis D. Brandeis. Attendees were also encouraged to turn to their neighbors and have a conversation on why the issue being presented was important to them personally.

Conversations regarding police brutality, allyship against injustice and the “cheapness” of black life in America were had before the crowd was asked to perform a “die-in.” The guests were called upon to lie down as if they were dead for four and a half minutes, representing the four and a half hours Michael Brown’s body lay in the street after he was killed.

During the “die-in,” a list of names of African-Americans killed by law enforcement and racialized violence was read, including the names of Brown, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy shot in Cleveland by police in November. Following the four and a half minutes, the crowd participated in a call-and-response of a quote by activist Assata Shakur.

On Dec. 2, one day after the die-in, a Facebook page called “Black Lives Matter Brandeis” was created, claiming to be run by an unnamed group of students as a voice for similar activism on campus. The group condemned the removal of the banners, pointing out online that in the past, non-racially-focused banners placed at Brandeis had not been removed for weeks, much less hours. Neither “Black Lives Matter Brandeis” nor the organizers of the die-in have announced any further plans for activism or meetings with the university administration. They have, however, made it clear that they will make their voices heard, one way or another.

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