In response to the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri early last month, and the perceived racially-motivated circumstances surrounding Brown’s death, several student groups led by the Black Students Union (BSU) staged a protest of police brutality on Ho Plaza during the afternoon of Sep. 10.
Compared to the anti-Israel protest staged by the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) two weeks ago, this protest was much more well-organized and included, at the peak, at least 75 students, faculty, and locals.
The event began with a “die-in” in which approximately twenty-five students lay on the ground in six minutes of silence holding signs with slogans like “America never loved us,” “I’m not a [target sign], ” and “#JusticeforMike.” Afterwards the coalition of students, which included those from SJP, formed a large circle on Ho Plaza and BSU event coordinator Surayya Diggs began speaking about the events in Ferguson.
Diggs subsequently handed the microphone over to Assistant Professor Russell Rickford, history, who proceeded to deliver an approximately 20-minute long speech (see video for condensed version). Rickford, who specializes in “black radical tradition and black political culture after WWII” according to his bio on the Cornell History Department’s website, covered topics relating to “white supremacy,” “post-racialism,” and forming a “social justice movement.”
Following Rickford’s speech, Nadia May ’16 recited her poem entitled “From Mom, With Love,” a piece on her expectations of how she will mother her future children intertwined with commentary on racism and police brutality.
After May’s poem, the participating students gathered for a photo under the McGraw clock tower. One photo was taken with the students making the Black Panther symbol raising their right arms. In another, everyone put both hands up and shouted “don’t shoot.”
In what appeared to be somewhat of a spontaneous act, the group then started chanted slogans like “no justice, no peace, no racist police” and later “hands up, don’t shoot” and began walking up the plaza, past the clock tower, into the Arts Quad, and ended up crowded around the statue of Ezra Cornell, where one final speech was delivered.