On Thursday, August 28, the Colgate campus hosted the nationwide “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” student solidarity movement that was in honor, memoriam and outrage of the murder of Michael Brown, the black 18-year-old man who was killed by a police
officer in Ferguson, Mo. on August 9.
The Michael Brown story has become a national controversy in the past few weeks, highlighting the racial tensions within America and converting a small Missouri town into a dangerous warzone. In response to Michael Brown’s death and a long list of unarmed black people killed by police in the United States, several Colgate students planned a peaceful protest that occurred on the quad during the first day of classes. Participants raised their hands for as long as they could to
demonstrate unarmed innocence.
Senior Kristi Carey and junior Charity Whyte helped organize the student-led protest on the quad.
“The protest was a time and a space for us to say that this is not okay – what we are reading, seeing and feeling when we see the news is not okay. What we see and feel when atrocities like this happen to people we know, or those that we don’t, is not okay. This was a time to reflect, mourn and connect with other people at Colgate who feel similarly. It was a space for community building – breaking silences of generalized apathy by creating a ‘silent space of solidarity,’” Carey said.
Positioned in the middle of the day on the quad, the demonstration attempted to attract Colgate students to come stand side-by-side on a common issue while also catching the attention of many bystanders in the hopes of educating the campus on racial and national issues.
“We exist on a campus that more often than not is imbued with political apathy, or at least seems to be,” Carey said. “In any case, this was a chance for the Colgate community to visibly come together and speak back to what is and what has been happening in contemporary “justice” (or lack thereof) in U.S. society.”
According to the protesters, while the Michael Brown incident happened in another state thousands of miles from Hamilton, N.Y., there are repercussions for all Americans, including Colgate students. Brown’s death and the violent demonstrations that have followed in Ferguson highlight the severe racial issues still present within America and give students a platform to focus on the concept of race on Colgate’s own campus.
“I think the way to ‘change’ racial issues on campus or on a global scale is to first start with ourselves. Every day, I consciously try to think about how my actions will affect other people in my classes, living space, social media space and the greater world outside of myself,” Whyte said.
The central purpose of the
demonstration was to give students the chance to express their feelings about Michael Brown’s death and the continuous racial injustice they may feel but by being completely silent in the process.
“The demonstration was less about activism and more about survival. Many people participating do not have a choice to care; this struggle is every day,” senior Melissa Melendez said.