Mason students affiliated with the Black Student Alliance and other campus organizations marched on North Plaza on Monday afternoon in protest of the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Following the shooting, subsequent protests and clashes in Ferguson have sparked a national debate about police brutality and race in America.
The BSA organized the protest, which consisted of a march from North Plaza to the George Mason statue, a moment of silence and a discussion on how Mason students could help make change in the wake of events in Ferguson. According to Ashya Majied, the faculty adviser to the BSA, this event commemorated his funeral as well as what should have been his first day of class. As the students marched to the George Mason statue, they raised their hands and chanted “hands up, don’t shoot.” The saying has become the universal chant of solidarity for nationwide protests against the events in Ferguson.
“This is an issue that cannot be ignored any longer,” said Rasheed Parker, president of the Black Student Alliance. “I’m glad to see everyone came out to march. This does not end here. Tweeting and marching doesn’t cause change. We have to be proactive. Let’s vote…write to your senator, write to your mayor. These policies come from top down. The reason why we see police officers with tanks is because the national government gave it to them.”
The BSA led the protesters in a moment of silence that was echoed in many universities across the country, including Howard University, Arizona State University and Washington University in St. Louis. Protesters then broke into small groups to have discussions on how to make change from Mason. The discussions covered ways in which Mason students could assist the city of Ferguson, discrimination and stereotypes students face and the way hip-hop culture is used to justify racial profiling. Some students were there to raise awareness for related issues, such as violence against black women and queer people of color.
“Just being identified as black, queer and a woman, I feel like a lot of times violence against black queer people and black women gets erased in these conversations,” said Lauren Parker, a student who turned out to protest. “So I’d like to show up because I’m definitely here to defend black men’s rights to life, but I’m also like, why are other people erased from that conversation? I want us to talk about that too.”
The Students Against Israeli Apartheid organization was involved in promoting the protest on social media and members were present at the event itself in solidarity.
“It’s important that we ally ourselves with our fellow comrades in struggle in that we can’t be free until our black brothers and sisters are free,” said Mohammad Abou Ghazala, a Palestinian-American SAIA member present at the protest.
Student Christina Lee first heard of the protest and partnered with the BSA to help with logistics and organization.
“We will not let Mike Brown’s death be in vain, and we are going to take this opportunity to create new ideas, new thought processes and new ways to make the difference that we can,” Lee said.