A day after a grand jury in New York failed to indict a police officer for the death of a black Staten Island man, Princeton University students are planning a walk out and “die-in” to protest the decision, racial discrimination, and police brutality.
Organizers seek to interrupt the daily routine of Princetonians to symbolize the constant interruption racism plays in the lives of people of color.
The walk out is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. More than 100 students, professors and community members will walk out of their classes and gather at the Frist North Lawn at noon. After gathering, students will hold a 45-minute “die-in,” lying on the ground to represent the 4.5 hours Michael Brown’s body was in the street in Ferguson, MO, after he was gunned down by Darren Wilson.
“The Princeton call to action stands in solidarity with the people of Ferguson and others demanding an end to radicalized state violence,” organizers said in a statement. “By remaining silent we are all complicit in this violence. We challenge our campus to stand in the nation’s service and fight for justice by rejecting the culture of apathy and reviving Princeton’s tradition of protest.”
The student-activists who are leading the protest are part of the “Post-Ferguson at Princeton” movement organized by the Black Leadership Coalition, a council of student leaders formed in 2014 representing the Black Student Union, Princeton African Students Association, and other groups.
In addition to protesting the failure to indict the officers, the students are protesting what they describe as the nationwide structures of institutionalized racism that have created two separate and unequal justice systems based on skin color.
“I think that as Princeton students it is or duty to speak out on injustices that people of color experience on this campus, in our various home communities, and in America as a whole,” said student DeVann Sago of the class of 2016.
Student activists also point to the ongoing racial bias on Princeton’s campus as an additional impetus for the event. As an example, they said last night an anonymous comment was posted on the social media app Yik Yak with the phrase “colored people getting militant” suggesting a need to “call in the National Guard” at Princeton.
“Unfortunately, black skin is seen as a ubiquitous threat,” said Princeton student Khallid Love from the class of 2015. “Even Black folk simply existing collectively in a space is often regarded as ‘militant.’ This just reifies the irrational white fear that is running rampant on this campus and in the country at large.”
Across New York City, residents took to the streets Wednesday after a grand jury said it would not bring charges in the death of Eric Garner, 43. He was being arrested for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on July 17 when New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in an illegal chokehold. Garner’s interaction with police and the chokehold that led to his death were captured on video (see below). The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, but the grand jury said Wednesday it would not indict Pantaleo.
Demonstrators gathered across the city yesterday to protest the decision, from the Staten Island neighborhood where Garner died to high-traffic areas in midtown Manhattan. They assembled in Times Square, Union Square and Lincoln Center. They marched down Broadway and blocked traffic on the West Side Highway. Late in the afternoon, a group of people appeared at Grand Central Station to stage a die-in. Protesters stretched out on the terminal floor to represent victims of police brutality.