Chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice! No Peace!”engulfed the UCLA campus. On the morning of Tuesday November 25, UCLA students rallied together to protest in solidarity with Ferguson. The night before, a grand jury ruled not to indict Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot and killed 18 year-old Michael Brown. The protests started in front of Kerckoff Hall and traveled to Royce Hall. The intent was to create awareness about police brutality against people of color. Students gave powerful speeches, read poems, and recounted their own personal stories connected to police brutality. Protesters raised their posters in defiance depicting images and names of lives lost to police brutality. From Emmett Till to Michael Brown, no real progress has been made. To quote human rights activist, Malcolm X:
“I will never say that progress is being made. If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches… there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made, and they haven’t even begun to try to pull the knife out. They won’t even admit the knife is there!”
Malcolm’s message reflects the issue protesters have. Their agitation stems from this country’s inability to admit there is a knife plunged in the backs of our citizens; institutional racism, police brutality and racial profiling is the knife no one is willing to acknowledge.
The grand jury deciding to not indict the officer sets a precedent that an unarmed black boy’s life isn’t deemed worthy of a trial. It perpetuates racism rooted in this country by essentially saying: black lives don’t matter. How are we to progress as a nation when a large portion of our community’s lives are threatened? How are we to progress if we are unable to acknowledge this inequality as a constant reality?
Our fellow Bruin protesters echoed these same sentiments.
When asked her reaction on the lack of indictment, fellow Bruin Choukri Wyatt said “I feel like it’s just another way of a 21st century lynching. It’s sad to say but this didn’t shock me.”
Donte Miller a fourth year Sociology major and Education Studies minor, was asked how the protests will affect UCLA: “It’s awareness. It started at Bruin walk, we asked people to speak, we moved to Royce so people can see it-it’s creating awareness,” he said.
Darmesha Thomas, a fourth year Sociology major, felt similar, saying, “I think this will definitely bring awareness. We are active in the situation, we’re not gonna sit back and watch it happen. UCLA is a top university, it will bring awareness or at least solidarity with other colleges”
The protest turned confrontational when a student held up a sign reading, “There is no strong evidence suggesting Officer Wilson is guilty of murder.” When asked about his views on the protests he said, “I like to look at things by a case by case situation. I don’t know. I just feel there isn’t enough evidence to show he is guilty.”
Although everyone is entitled to freedom of speech, he missed the point of the protests on campus. This isn’t about one isolated case. This is about the countless lives lost to over zealous policemen who kill first and ask later. This is the culmination of decades of systematic oppression. How many Eric Garners, John Crawfords, Trayvon Martins, Michael Browns, and Tamir Rices need to die before people realize there is a serious problem?
Wearing a hoodie, carrying a toy gun, standing on the sidewalk or jaywalking do not warrant deaths. This is why UCLA students protested. This is why I protested. To show solidarity. To create awareness about racism in America.
We need to admit the knife is there.