Home Education Protesters take on OU campus in march for racial peace

Protesters take on OU campus in march for racial peace

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Bystanders peaked out of windows and craned their necks out of local storefronts as an crowd of about 80 students marched its way uptown Athens and through the Ohio University campus to call for peace and justice in a society both historically and recently overrun with violence against black Americans.

Organizers from Student Senate’s Minority Affairs Commission found themselves overwhelmed with support as the Sunday afternoon Peace and Action rally hosted a larger-than-expected turnout as students hoisted up signs and chanted out cries for action and immortalized the names of African Americans who were recently killed because of their race.

The peaceful rally and demonstration held as a reaction to recent events as well as to coincide with OU’s Black Alumni Reunion, was to help serve as a springboard to encourage students to stand up and take action rather than to sit by idly.

Student Senate Vice Commissioner for Minority Affairs Tiarra Comer, who organized the demonstration, wanted to get the message to students not to be afraid to stand for change.

“One thing I realize when looking into the civil rights movement is that a lot of the people that did the petitioning and the rallying, they were are our age,” she said. “…So today I just hope to let people know that you are capable of being the change. Step up and take action. Don’t just sit back and watch what’s going on if it really hurts you or has an impact on your life.”

Derrick Holifield, president of Alpha Phi Alpha and known for his powerful poetry, delivered the poem he gave at the anniversary of the March on Washington event, which touched on the violence against black Americans and the disregard for their welfare and the welfare of the poor. He, like Comer, was overwhelmed by the turnout.

“It’s hard to get anyone to come to protests but I’m very, very happy with the turnout. There was so much love in the area,” he said. “And you can just tell that people have this idea in their heart that they want change and I’m overwhelmed right now.”

Just under 100 people carried signs and marched up Court Street and through College Green, chanting “More justice, more peace,” and statements like “Protect and serve, that’s a lie, they don’t care when black men die!” Comer and Holifield led the march, megaphone in hand, as many people stopped to see the source of the unified protesting.

“For people watching that weren’t originally a part of it, I want them to see that what’s going on in our society now is really affecting people and just by knowing that, just try and do something that goes and helps steer society away from all the violence going on right now,” Comer said.

The march stopped in front of College Green, where people formed and circle and took turns sharing stories and giving advice to encourage peers to educate others and not to sit by and let racism and injustice happen.

Protesters reiterated the story of Trayvon Martin as well as lesser known stories like that of Oscar Grant III, a young black man who was being held by police near a subway station in Oakland, Calif. in 2009 after an altercation when the officer fatally shot him in the back, originally claiming he pulled his gun out instead of his taser accidentally. The officer was charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The people in the crowd helped educate each other on the most recent violence that took place to remind everyone that cases like these were not the first and will not be the last, evident in the deadly shooting of a man in Mecklenburg County, NC.

Former Florida A&M safety Jonathan Ferrell was killed in North Carolina after he made advances toward a trio of officers who then fired 12 shots at the unarmed 24-year-old. Ferrell knocked on a woman’s door for help after crashing his car and the woman called police, believing he was trying to break in.

Jacob Chaffin, a member of the OU Student Union, took the megaphone and recognized the solidarity of the group, which was comprised of students of multiple races.

“We have a role to go out and make sure that when we see racism from other white people, that we’re correcting it,” he said, among cheers from the crowd.

Some demonstrators told stories of their own family being killed by police or being victims of other violence in which perpetrators were never brought to justice.

“Today it could be you, just because you’re black,” Holifield said. “Black men are dangerous. Black educated men are more dangerous! That’s why you’re all here!”

Anna Morton, vice president of Student Senate, participated in the march alongside several other senators.

“It was moving. When it’s such a close community you don’t realize how many people are out there sharing their stories,” she said. “You can change a life, just talking about it.”

Comer, ecstatic about the turnout, was confident that the rally’s success would mean success for the future.

“Hopefully as a result of today people will start moving forward, educating people about the things that are going on in society to make it better…to make it a safer place for us to live,” she said.

 

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