Students Stand Their Ground for Social Justice

By Nadirah Simmons

Photo of rally organizer Christopher Bradshaw, taken by Nadirah Simmons

Photo of rally organizer Christopher Bradshaw, taken by Nadirah Simmons

The trial is over, but the fight is not. Rutgers University students and New Brunswick residents rallied on March 7 to raise awareness about “stand-your-ground” s and other statutes they feel are racially biased.

“Stand-your-ground” laws give individuals the right to use deadly force to defend themselves if they claim to have felt threatened without any requirement to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation.

“It’s not a law for people of color,” said rally organizer Christopher Bradshaw. “It doesn’t protect us.”

Bradshaw, an Africana Studies, Political Science, and History major at Rutgers University, partnered with Black Student Union and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated and hosted “Stand Your Ground for Social Justice Rally” on the College Avenue campus.

The Facebook page for the event encouraged attendees to “take a stand against racially biased legislation,” and as confront the “looming threat of black devaluation and social injustice oppressed upon black and brown people.”

Bradshaw, treasurer of Black Student Union, said the implications of the stand-your-ground law in the cases of Marissa Alexander, Trayvon Martin, and Jordan Davis in Florida inspired him to act.

Davis, an African-American teen, was fatally shot by 45-year-old Caucasian male Michael Dunn in 2012 during an exchange over loud music. On February 17, 2013 Dunn was convicted on three counts of attempted second-degree murder for firing at the three other teenagers who were with Davis and one count of firing into a vehicle.

The jury was unable to return a unanimous verdict on the charge of the first-degree murder in the Davis case, and the count was declared a mistrial.

“I was upset about the trial and I reached out to my friend Shaquille Gurley, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha,” said Bradshaw. “I told him we needed to do something, we have too many resources.”

Bradshaw and Gurley agreed to bring together their organizations and meet on Brower’s steps from 1-5 p.m. to raise awareness.

At the rally students and New Brunswick residents were encouraged to “Take the Pledge” and sign their name stating that they will actively confront racism, sexism, colorblindness, and racial profiling.

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Photo of students at the rally taken by Nadirah Simmons

By 3 p.m. Bradshaw had nearly 150 signatures.

“This is not just a Florida issue,” said Rutgers University sophomore Michelle Locke. “Just because it is not in New Jersey doesn’t mean it’s not important.”

Other sponsoring organizations included Students for Justice in Palestine, NAACP, Collegiate 100, the Latin American Women’s organization, and Liberated Gospel Choir which sung at the opening of the rally.

“Regardless of race, gender, or religion everybody needs to get behind it before someone you know is impacted by this law,” said Rutgers University senior Lundon Wilson.

“We have an obligation as a sociopolitical organization to try and educate people about what is happening in our world,” said Black Student Union President Kori Newallo.

Fifth-year Rutgers student John Lisowski says America needs to have a real discussion about race and how “stand-your-ground” laws are unfair to people of color.

“People need to wake up and actually work to change our racist justice system,” said Lisowski. “That’s why I’m here.”

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