For a moment, the Main Green was silent.
At 2 p.m. today, students began lying down in front of Sayles Hall, clutching white pieces of paper to their chests. The papers each had a name, a date and an age–the name of a black American killed due to police brutality, the date of their death and their age. At its peak, over 100 students, diverse in their racial makeup, lay silently and in solidarity.
The Die-In Protest, organized by Jordan Ferguson ’17, the leader of the Black Student Union at Brown, marked the first official Brown-organized act of resistance in the wake of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of an unarmed teenager, Mike Brown, in Ferguson, MO. Although the verdict was released a week ago, Thanksgiving break thwarted potential reactive events on Brown’s campus, although there were protests in Providence throughout last week.
The protest was silent for its entirety. Bystanders, too, spoke in hushed voices. Brown students rushing to class stopped to snap pictures (#BrownStandsWithFerguson is the hashtag being used on social media), Providence residents walking their dogs tapped students on the shoulders asking, “What’s this for?” and an ABC 6 news reporter stood on the side, recording the event. While after a few minutes, activities resumed throughout the Main Green, the area around Sayles stayed relatively muted for an hour and a half, until the last protestors rose.
For Jordan Ferguson, the Die-in’s location, smack dab in the center of campus, and unsettling imagery of students feigning death was a reminder that Mike Brown’s death was not an isolated incident and that losing momentum in discussing and acting against police brutality and racial injustice in America is dangerous–in a literal sense. But the message extended beyond this as well.
“This event was also to give life to people whose stories were not told, people who didn’t have protests for them,” he said. “This is a racial issue. But this is also a human issue. As a human being, that people are being killed in cold blood should send shivers down your spine.”
The location served not only as a sobering reminder that this issue cannot be forgotten; it also illuminated difficulties in maintaining steam going forward. With finals looming, many students standing around the perimeter of the event expressed desire to participate but feel they were too busy, highlighting a constant social justice struggle on college campuses. Furthermore, in the age of Internet news, issues enter and exit people’s consciousness like clockwork, leaving some to wonder if the outrage over events in Ferguson and beyond will fizzle out.
However, Jordan Ferguson didn’t seem too worried about this, stating that the crowd exceeded his expectations, and that this is the only the beginning.
“I’m not gonna fault those who didn’t come for not making the time,” he said. “This is a great start. This could be the next wave.”
What’s next? Start with tomorrow’s Day of Silence.
Image via Kenji Endo ’18.