Students stand in solidarity with Ferguson protesters at #HandsUpWalkOut

Protesters march on South College Street on Wednesday. Their route led them through uptown Athens, down University Terrace, and ended at Baker University Center. Photo courtesy of Evan Chwalek.

Hundreds of students gathered on College Green on Wednesday at precisely 12:01 p.m. to stand in solidarity with protesters of Ferguson and to protest recent social injustice. Students all over campus put their hands up and marched out of classes as a part of the #HandsUpWalkOut movement.

The rally began with an introduction from Olivia Wallace, a junior studying visual anthropology. After opening remarks, Wallace invited the crowd to participate in an African dance. The rally then reconvened with several speakers.

At approximately 1 p.m. the march began. Protesters marched down Court Street and continued on to East Washington Street and then to College Street. The march then proceeded up East Union Street, on to University Terrace and concluded at the top of Baker Center.

Students and Athens residents amass in front of Baker University Center, listening to impromptu speeches from demonstrators. Photo courtesy of Evan Chwalek.

Ryant Taylor, Student Senate LGBTQA Affairs Commissioner and a junior studying creative writing, planned the march after a recent visit to Ferguson, Mo.

“I stood with a crowd weary with pain because they had been beaten and shackled and made to feel less than human for so long, but they were energized with solidarity. And I stood with my fellow students that dared to try to make a difference one step at a time as we dared to say that we are brave,” Taylor said as he reflected on his experience in Ferguson.

In opening remarks, Wallace provided students with a brief background on the shooting of Michael Brown.

Brown was shot and killed in the streets of Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 9. Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown will not be indicted until January 2015.

The #HandsUpWalkOut movement was one of 77 actions across the nation on Oct. 22, 2014.

Athens community member and founder of Ugata, Lawrence Greene stated that he has experienced racism locally for simply trying to embrace his culture.

Greene discredited the collective belief that we are in a post-racial society. “And I can tell you from the Confederate flags that I see when I drive around the countryside that this is not a post-racial society,” declared Greene.

The crowd met Greene’s assertion in harmony with a roar of applause.

“Who are the real criminals here?” Taylor asked, referring to the criminalization of the black race by the media. Taylor urged the crowd to break free of the “tired image” of blacks.

#HandsUpWalkout organizer Ryant Taylor addresses an impassioned crowd on Wednesday afternoon. Photo courtesy of Evan Chwalek.

Taylor laid the blame at the feet of those who stood by as an entire race was oppressed. Taylor was adamant that the people must stand up, they must speak and they must fight for their human rights.

“When I think of the day that I can finally tell my kids, ‘Yes, we fought, and we won and we did not let them break us’…I think of this,” Taylor said.

As the energy grew, the crowd was confronted by the assertion that the issue was not only of race but an issue of class and humanity.

Sami Eddauod, a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Group, instructed those in attendance, “Regardless of the color of your fist, put it in the air.” With fists of all colors in the air, the crowd shouted as one, “All lives matter! All lives matter!”

The vigor of the movement continued as revolution was inspired.

Aramis Malachi-Ture Sundiata of the Ohio Student Association commanded attention as he recounted his participation in a protest of the shooting of John Crawford.

Sundiata expressed his solidarity with the Palestinians and solidarity with any group being oppressed. He demanded a revolution.

“I’m challenging my white comrades, my black comrades—everybody in here—to be able to go to your communities and discuss these issues,” said Sundiata. “Because if you don’t do this and organize for power, they will win.”

Sundiata left the crowd firmly united as one once more, chanting, “I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!”

The tone was transformed by OU student Jolana Watson’s assertion, “Black women don’t belong here.”

Watson addressed the conformism “little black girls” face today, such as changing their hair, lightening their skin, changing their body, correcting their language and containing their sexuality.

Watson urged for more uncomfortable conversations about racism to occur.

Scores of people fill College Green to hear the perspectives of various speakers prior to the protest march. OU student Jolana Watson speaks about the future of young black girls. Photo courtesy of Evan Chwalek.

For some, like Kelli Oliver, a senior studying commercial photography, the day Brown was shot was the day their world stood still.

Oliver stated that she found her relief in the image of the Ferguson protesters. Oliver recently visited Ferguson and stood where Brown was shot.

She marched nearly three miles to the Ferguson police department and stood in solidarity with the protesters.

“While I still have the ringing of the anguish in their voices in my ears, I don’t think the police department could hear us behind their riot gear,” said Oliver.

Oliver argued that the shooting of Brown is part of a larger issue. She stated that the death of Brown was a message sent to silence minorities.

Oliver regarded it as the moral duty of the privileged minority to stand beside the protesters in Ferguson.

“I will not wait until it is my brother or my sister or my father who is slain to stand up. By then it is far far too late. The time is now,” Oliver said.

OU student Jasmine-Renee Riley also protested in Ferguson and says the time to fight the fight is now.

Riley challenged those in attendance to understand what it means to achieve economic and social justice, to stop pointing fingers and to stand behind what they believe. Riley then recited the basic human rights of individuals, black or white, and was echoed in unison by all.

“This is our fight. So let’s fight it,” said Riley.

The last speaker, Shambrion Treadwell, a student studying theater, recited the poem “Too Black.”

In addition to, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and various other chants, protesters rang out, “Ain’t no power like the power of the people, ’cause the power of the people don’t stop!”

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The unyielding power of the people was witnessed by hundreds of Bobcats on Wednesday and it won’t stop there. The fight for justice will continue in Bentley 120 at 8p.m. today, Oct. 23, at a follow up meeting to discuss the next steps.

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