Campus Activism

SU community members stage ‘die-in’ at Bird Library, protest downtown as part of ‘March for Justice’

Updated: Dec. 8, 9:04 p.m.

As many Syracuse University students studied for finals in Bird Library on Monday afternoon, they were greeted by a group of about 250 other members of the SU community, who were there to stage a “die-in.”

At about 4:30 p.m., a group of participants in the “March for Justice” entered Bird Library and staged a “die-in,” which lasted four and a half minutes, symbolizing the four and a half hours that Michael Brown’s body was in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri following his death.

Brown, an 18-year-old man, was shot and killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. A grand jury later decided not to indict Wilson for any crimes related to the fatal shooting of Brown. Since then, protests have continued around the country.

The “March for Justice” began on the steps of Hendricks Chapel around 4 p.m. on Monday. SU community members congregated there and handed out signs for about 20 minutes. The group then marched to Bird for the “die-in” before making its way downtown to protest.

At Hendricks Chapel at the start of the rally, Colton Jones, a senior psychology major, said the group was there to call for justice.

“We are bridging the gap between the Syracuse campus community and the Syracuse community itself,” Jones said. “We are here because we have seen the power of this community. We are here because we are the resistance, we are the change, we are the future.”

Protesters came into Bird and were met with onlookers videotaping, taking pictures, looking on with puzzled faces and some raising their fists as a sign of support.

The “die-in” began just after 4:30 p.m. Traffic in the building was halted as participants blocked the staircase between the third and first floors. As the “die-in” was taking place, the names of victims of police brutality were read off.

“This is not ideal,” one student said as marchers spread out across the floor. “I’m trying to study. Be quiet,” another said.

Tian Lam, a senior mechanical engineering major, was in Bird when the marchers came in.

“I’m surprised they (SU) let them do this,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a good time with people trying to study.”

Following the four and a half minute “die-in,” attendees marched to the Patrick J. Corbett Justice Center, located on South State Street in downtown Syracuse. Marchers left Bird around 4:40 p.m. and marched just over a mile to the Justice Center, where they arrived around 5:15 p.m.

As they walked, marchers chanted things like: “Hands up don’t shoot,” “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and “I can’t breathe,” in honor of Eric Garner.

Garner, a 43-year-old father of six suspected of selling loose cigarettes, died on July 17 in Staten Island, New York after New York City Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo put Garner in a chokehold. A video surfaced of the incident and in the video, Garner repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.” Garner died about an hour later at a local hospital. Last Monday, a grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo for any crimes related to Garner’s death.

The Department of Public Safety had roads blocked off for the march until Harrison Street. DPS Associate Chief John Sardino accompanied the group to the Justice Center.

As the group was walking, many onlookers showed signs of support. When marching past the State University of New York Upstate Medical University Department of Psychiatry, people in the building banged on the glass windows and raised their fists in support.

As the group made a right from Harrison Street to South State Street, where the Justice Center is located, marchers chanted, “Protect and serve-that’s a lie, you don’t care when black kids die” and “We don’t want incarcerations, tear down the police station.”

Once the marchers got to the Justice Center, they stood in the middle of the street at the intersection of South State Street and East Jefferson Street. Marchers blocked traffic as they listened to speakers and chanted, “shut it down.”

Those who were not able to drive honked their horns in frustration and yelled out their windows. Around 5:30 p.m., a woman grew upset with the marchers and complained that she could not get to where she needed to go.

“Can I get through?” the woman asked from her car. “We shut it down,” one marcher responded.

Among the speakers during the downtown portion of the event were Derek Ford, a graduate student in the SU School of Education, and the Rev. L. Micah O. Dexter II of The New Salem Missionary Baptist Church of Syracuse.

“There’s an illusion that these are just a couple of bad apples,” Ford said referring to Wilson and Pantaleo, the officers who killed Brown and Garner. “But the whole system is messed up.”

“We’ve got to keep this fight going,” Dexter added.

Around 5:45 p.m., the group began its march back to campus. When passing Weiser Court, a housing community on East Adams Street, people came out of their houses and chanted along with the marchers.

The marchers returned to campus around 6:15 p.m. The group arrived at the area between the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Schine Student Center chanting, “We can’t breathe,” and “Shut it down” before dispersing.

Jones, a member of the march, said in an interview following the event that some of group members would be attending a national march in New York City on Saturday to protest the lack of indictments.

Haywood McDuffie, a sophomore communication and rhetorical studies major who marched, said the deaths of Brown and Garner inspired him to come, adding that he was surprised by the turnout.

“I was actually expecting a lot less people,” McDuffie said, “but the fact there was so many people gathered together means that it was really effective.”

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