Students react to Ferguson decision, police brutality

In past months, many Americans have been consumed with the issues surrounding police brutality, the right to protest and the desired change that is sought in the U.S. justice system with recent deaths that have come at the hands of police officers.

This change comes in response to the cases of police brutality that has occurred within cities and communities all across the U.S. 

These cases include the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin of Florida, last year’s death of Santa Rosa teen Andy Lopez as well as the most recent death of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo., occurring in August of this year.

Students, activists and citizens of all backgrounds across the nation have spoken their opinions concerning the decision to not indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson who was responsible for Brown’s death on Aug. 9.   

In a statement by President Barack Obama following the acquittal of Wilson last month, Obama spoke of the acceptance that he hopes Americans will adhere to in the grand jury’s decision in the death of Michael Brown. 

“We are a nation built on the rule of law.  And so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” said Obama. “There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry.  It’s an understandable reaction.” 

Obama continued by repeating the encouraging words of Brown’s father, urging Americans to protest peacefully and advocate for change within the justice system rather than hurting others and destroying property.

“The big difference between peaceful protests and the violent protests is when you involve violence in a protest, [the situation] can escalate very quickly,” said Christin Bearden, a third-year student and event coordinator and graphic designer of Sonoma State University’s Black Scholars United. “In Ferguson, where [people] are rioting,  what that is really doing is tearing down their own community,” 

Across the Bay Area, citizens have actively protested the deaths of the many black Americans who have died at the hands of white police officers in the U.S. Many protests have occurred in Oakland, where not long ago the city endured the tragedy of the death of Oscar Grant. Grant was an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit station on Jan. 1, 2009.

On Saturday night, the city of Berkeley erupted in protest because of the many cases of police brutality against black men and youth that have occurred in recent years. The protest began with roughly 40 participants and later grew to over 1,000 people throughout the 10-hour long march and demonstration. The protesters included many students from the UC Berkeley campus.

Police officers deployed tear gas on many protesters because of the violence and vandalism that occurred during the demonstration.  

This case of protest in Berkeley is only one of the many demonstrations happening all over the U.S. and throughout cities in California. 

Students at Sonoma State University have also taken action in advocating their views on the case of Brown and the many deaths by police brutality in the nation. 

Sonoma State students have organized a “Die In Protest” event early today morning in response to the fight against police brutality. This protest will be in the University Library and have signs publicly denouncing the verdicts in the cases of Brown as well as other cases.

“The hopes that we have for this protest is to show that students at Sonoma State who do support the movements [against the verdict to not indict police officers involved in the deaths of black Americans],” said Bearden. “By having this protest, it shows others that [Sonoma State] has life and students support this cause. In having this protest, we want to unite the people who support the cause and bring people together. We hope to raise awareness so these [tragedies] won’t happen again.”

 Student organizers advocated their emphasis on peace and silence in creating change on the issue of police brutality in the U.S.

This protest is not the only form of freedom of speech students have exercised in recent weeks.  In November students from the Black Scholars United organization of Sonoma State and the SRJC Black Student Union were subjected to racism while on retreat at Double Decker Lanes Bowling Alley in Rohnert Park, and are speaking out.

These students experienced offensive racial slurs and discrimination from multiple white, college-aged individuals while attending a mixer. According to members of the organization, the Rohnert Park Police Department was called and the members of both organizations felt subjected to hostility and aggressiveness by the local police, as well other people involved.

According to members of the organizations, this incident at Double Decker Lanes in Rohnert Park was another instance of discrimination that serves as an example that racism is still prevalent in society.