Article Image
Cindy Ma / Senior Staff Photographer

A student speaks at a rally held Monday night following the announcement in Ferguson, Missouri, that police officer Darren Wilson will not be charged with a crime.

Updated: Nov. 27, 2014

Around 200 students gathered on the Sundial on Monday night following the announcement in Ferguson, Missouri, that a grand jury decided police officer Darren Wilson will not be charged in the death of Michael Brown.

The gathering was one of many that erupted across New York City on Monday night, though it was smaller and quieter than the ones that eventually occupied the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Robert F. Kennedy bridges.

"We're here in solidarity with Ferguson. We're here in memory of Michael Brown—in solidarity with Marissa Alexander. We're here in memory of Tamir Rice," Asha Rosa, CC '16 and a member of Students Against Mass Incarceration, said at the speakout. "It's also a call to action."

The two-hour gathering began as a rally, and evolved into more of a vigil as organizers lit candles and shared poems, articles, and songs before opening the event to attendees and allowing them to share stories.

Students expressed sadness, fear, and frustration—some tearing up or shaking—and many voiced concern for the safety of black people in the face of police brutality.

"Upon hearing that there will be no indictment, I am filled with sadness and anger. ... And I can tell that you feel the same way. I'm looking at your faces," Damon Xavier, CC '17 and political chair of the Black Students Organization, said. "Don't let this be the last time you think about police brutality."

Xavier spoke at the stream of people who walked past the gathering on College Walk.

"I'm filled with happiness with seeing so many people come out, but I know that police brutality and the racist practices that the police utilize affect many more people than this," he said. "It's with great sadness to see that there aren't more people out here. And it's with great sadness to see that people are just walking the fuck on."

Other attendees shared Xavier's frustration with the lack of community attention.

"You see people walking by, not giving a single fuck about what's happening, and this is where we go to school," Maya Reid, CC '15, said.

Between speakers, the crowd chanted slogans such as, "From Ferguson to NYC, the cops are racist can't you see. From Palestine to Chicago, the police state has got to go."

One speaker, Andre Fuqua, SEAS '15, grew up in Missouri and spoke about the racism in the community there.

"The youth need help. Growing up in that city was some shit. I'm telling you, it's racist. People don't care," Fuqua said. "Please don't forget about Mike Brown. Don't forget about Trayvon. Don't forget. Please do something, because we need something done."

Chloe "Kidd" Matthews, CC '18, read a list of black men who were killed by police.

"I can't be free out here. I can't be free on the streets," Matthews said. "It's not safe to be brown and on your own."

Still, students' speeches and attendees had a tinge of hope for the future.

"But it's cool, we're going to keep fighting," Matthews said. "We're going to carry this country on our back like we did on the first goddamn day, and we're going to make it up."

Some said that the national response to the Ferguson announcement was an indication that people cared.

"I'm excited when people are emotional. That's when action happens. When people are angry, that's when action happens," Bryant Brown, CC '15 and a member of SAMI, said. "Hopefully we can channel that energy that people are feeling into movement."

"I am upset. But I didn't expect anything different," Chanique Vassell, CC '17, said. "It's up to us to choose the narrative. We're realizing that the narrative exists, and it's up to us to change it so that black boys don't have to get gunned down."

Correction, Nov. 25, 2014: A previous version of this article said the rally occurred Tuesday night, but the rally actually happened Monday night. Spectator regrets the error.

Correction, Nov. 27, 2014: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Tamir Rice. Additionally, the article used the term "African-American" when speakers at the Monday night's event mostly used the word "black," which encompasses more people than does African-American. Spectator regrets the errors.  |  @ColumbiaSpec

Ferguson activism Black Students Organization Students Against Mass Incarceration