'Hand's up, don't shoot!'
Physics sophomore Elsa Gebreyohanes wears make up and lies down on the floor in the Student Union Memorial Center on Wednesday to represent gunshot victims and lives lost to police brutality.
Members of the Black Student Union and their allies were asked to leave the Student Union Memorial Center twice for protesting on Wednesday despite positive responses from student witnesses.
The protesters marched around and through the student union to bring attention to the ingrained discrimination that black men and women face in the U.S.
As they marched around the student union, they were met with clapping from organizations on the UA Mall. Some people put their hands up after hearing the group shout, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”The protesters laid down in front of Gallagher Theater at one point to represent the black men and women killed by police brutality.
After doing so, Glen Loftis, event services program coordinator in the event services office at Arizona Student Unions, and other staff members asked the protesters to leave the union.
Loftis said they did so because the student union is a place they try to keep “politically free.”
“This is a place for students to come without being hassled,” Loftis said. “This is a safe haven, so that’s why we politely asked them to go outside.”
The student reaction was largely one of support for the protesters.
“To see people speaking out and refusing to forget what has happened is absolutely crucial because as soon as you forget, that’s when things happen again,” said Jordan Neubauer, a political science freshman.
Mallory Corrus, a political science senior, said it is important for the community to speak out against police brutality.
“I think [the protest] was really powerful,” Corrus said. “I’m really proud of our community for embracing it and understanding the gravity of the situation and how important it is to fight against police brutality.”
Kevyn Butler, president of the BSU, and Trinity Goss, vice president of the BSU, did not understand why they were kicked out the second time because they did not chant and only held their signs as they walked through the union.
Goss noted the discrepancy in how student stances were treated versus the stances of corporations, such as Chick-fil-A, which had received criticism for its stance against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community two years ago.
“I just want … more clarification on what they consider taking a stance on something,” Goss said. “If it’s bringing money to the university, is it just swept under the rug and OK?”
Kathryn Adams Riester, associate dean of students for parent and family programs, said the UA applies something known as a “Forum Test” when deciding whether or not protests are allowed in an area.
“The type of forum that you’re in determines what kind of expressive activity can occur in that space,” Adams Riester said.
Adams Riester said the inside of the student union is not a public forum because it is supposed to be a place of business, and no types of protests are allowed inside the building even if they are not being disruptive.
Butler said being asked to leave could end up being a positive thing for the visibility of BSU’s cause, and that they had talked about the possibility while planning the protest.
“Now it’s gotten to a point where they’ve asked us to leave twice, that it’s not going to even be a thing that is brushed under the rug,” Butler said. “Now we’re not just reaching the undergraduate or the graduate student body, but the administrative level as well.”
Butler said they were trying to bring awareness to the amount of black individuals being killed by police brutality.
“We want to highlight this experience on our campus because us, as black individuals, these issues pertain to us even though we’re on a predominantly white campus,” Butler said. “So we’re kind of out here to make sure that black individuals who lost their lives, like Michael Brown, like Jordan Davis, like Trayvon Martin, that their deaths don’t become trends and that they actually become statements that we take into our society to change our views and our policy systems.”
Butler directed the #OurLivesMatter demonstration as part of the Black Life Matters organization and led the protesters in chants. Those chants included, “Black lives matter,” “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “We won’t forget,” and, “No justice, no peace.”
They also chanted in solidarity with black teens killed in recent years, including Michael Brown, Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin.
The protesters carried signs that displayed messages including, “Black is not a probable cause,” “Stop killing us,” and, “Black blood bleeds red, too.” There was also a sign with a list of black men and women killed, under the heading, “The fallen — We will always remember.”
Some of the protesters, including Elsa Gebreyohanes, a physics sophomore, donned facial paint meant to represent bullet wounds from police brutality.
“It makes it more real,” Gebreyohanes said. “It’s not just us holding our signs. You can see the effects of what it is.”
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