Rutgers Reacts to Ferguson Verdict

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Photo by Alexandra Wepner

By Tatiana Vickerie

More than 450 students from Rutgers University marched through New Brunswick, Nov. 25 in reaction to the failure by a grand jury in Missouri to indict the police officer who shot an unarmed black teenager.

The teenager, 18-year-old Michael Brown, was shot and killed Aug. 9 by Police Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. The details of the shooting were in dispute and a grand jury was convened to determine whether Wilson should be indicted. Prosecutor Robert McCullough announced Nov. 24 that the grand jury would not indict, triggering protests and some riots around the country. Since the protest, Darren Wilson officially resigned from the Ferguson Police Department.

Rutgers’ protest was one of many in the area, including one on Throop Avenue, the site of a police shooting in 2011, and one in Highland Park. A protest has been scheduled for tonight, which has caused the cancellation of the annual city tree lighting ceremony.

At Rutgers, protesters shouted, “The people united can never be defeated!” and “Justice for Michael Brown!” as they peacefully marched. “Wanted” fliers depicting other police officers, including Wilson, who have killed unarmed black men without an indictment were passed around.

The crowd consisted of individuals from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. Kaila Boulwar, a student organizer from Rutgers University, used a microphone to speak to protestors and discuss past cases police violence in New Brunswick.

Students said they participated to show their support for Brown and to seek reforms. Some offered their opinions on how New Brunswick can become a safer community by having police officers represent the demographic within the area.

“If the people that are there to protect look more like the people they’re protecting there would be less police brutality toward citizens,” said Jaylen Reynolds, a School of Arts and Science sophomore. “There would be more of a mutual understanding and less fear if the officers can better identify with the community they’re trying to protect.”

“I’m out here because I know that justice has not been served,” said Briana West, a School of Arts and Science senior. “Police brutality isn’t something that just happened in Ferguson. It’s sad to say that men of color everywhere have target on their back when it comes to the justice system.”

Once the protest ended, everyone joined together and put his or her fists up to symbolize solidarity.

“If we as a country stand together, we can put racism to an end,” said Ayana Wildgoose, a School of Arts and Science senior. “It’s encouraging to see people from different backgrounds come together and acknowledge that racism still exists.”

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