The line of protesters, dressed in black, shouted their message as they snaked from the HUB across campus to Old Main.
“Black lives matter! Black lives matter!” “No justice, no peace.”
It was the second day of very public, very vocal demonstrations at Penn State by black students, student organizations, and others that supported their cause. Tuesday’s event in the HUB had students piling up in the student center, silently portraying the lives lost to violence. On Wednesday, they followed that up with a second “die-in,” this time right in front of the steps of the building that is the symbol of the university and the seat of the administration.
“Insanity!” shouted Rhoda Moise. “We are looking for justice... dying for justice. But is it just us?”
It wasn’t. The protestors spent 45 minutes of silence on the cold wet ground, meant to symbolize the four and a half hours that the body of Michael Brown, 18, spent on the ground in Ferguson, Mo, after being shot by a police officer. Protests have cropped up around the country after a grand jury failed to return an indictment on that officer last week.
But when the protest neared its conclusion, they were joined by university President Eric Barron, who held up his hands in the “don’t shoot” pose has become a gesture of solidarity with the movement. Five St. Louis Rams players were criticized for making that same gesture when entering Sunday’s game against Oakland. The St. Louis Police Officers Association asked the team and the NFL to discipline them. Both declined.
“My first reaction and the one that is going to be lasting for me is how incredibly proud I am of these students and the way they expressed themselves,” said Barron. “It was thoughtful. It sends a very clear message. It sends a very meaningful message. It just makes you proud that they are students at Penn State and taking something they care deeply about and they’re letting everybody understand exactly how they feel about it in an incredibly meaningful way.”
Junior Dandre Shivers hopes the protests have a “butterfly effect” on public consciousness. Will it change the lives of black students on campus tomorrow? Maybe not.
“But it’s a start,” he said.
The Black Student Caucus and other groups organizing the protests plan to continue them throughout the week. Carlos Wiley, director of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, said they will be targeted at Pattee-Paterno Library on Thursday and residence hall common areas on Friday.
What he wants people to realize, though, is that the protests are not about just one case.
“This is keeping the attention on a 150-year-old problem,” said Wiley. “I don’t believe any of these protests, with the exception of what is going on in Ferguson, Mo., are solely about Michael Brown.”