Students respond to Wilson decision with walkout
The national group Hands Up United called for national walkouts to happen on Dec. 1 at 12:01 p.m., the time Michael Brown was shot on Aug. 9. In response at Washington University, students from the Brown School of Social Work and activist group STL Students in Solidarity organized a walkout and “dead-in” Monday afternoon.
Reuben Riggs, a senior and one of the organizers from STL Students in Solidarity, said that the goals of the large-scale protest were to call attention to the injustice of the grand jury’s decision and to ensure that people on campus recognize its relevance.
Riggs added that this walkout was different than the one that the group led in August, which involved a silent march around campus.
“It took a more active position. We weren’t just looking to maintain status quo but to make a difference,” he said.
“This was us showing our stance and asking [Chancellor Mark Wrighton] to take a stance,” junior and participant Nana Nimako said.
Students’ rallying cries included “the unrest is on campus” and “out of the school and into the streets.” Several flyers were posted earlier in the day echoing these sentiments, referencing Wrighton’s email to the University community following the announcement that said that it is “fortunate that the unrest has not affected our campuses and adjacent areas.”To begin the walkout, the participants congregated outside Goldfarb Hall before marching through the building. The group lay down in Goldfarb Commons to conduct a dead-in demonstration and held a 4 1/2-minute moment of silence to represent and commemorate the number of hours Michael Brown lay dead in the street.
“We wanted this to happen in the Brown School specifically because we have certain areas that we want to engage our student population, particularly as social workers,” Lena Smith, a student in the Brown School of Social Work who helped lead the action, said.
Smith explained that she helped organize the protest in response to feelings voiced at the Brown School that only black students were bringing up racial issues.
“As a white person, I need to bring the conversation to other white people,” she said.
Social work students marched with signs reading “This is what social work looks like.” Graduate social work student Rachel Cherrick, who participated in the demonstration, agreed with this notion.
“I think, especially as a social work student, [this issue] is important to address,” Cherrick said.
The demonstrators then proceeded through Brookings Quadrangle, Holmes Lounge, Eads Hall and Whispers Cafe before ending in the DUC, where they performed another dead-in demonstration.Riggs said that several of the locations that the demonstrators passed through were spontaneous additions to the protest route rather than planned stops.
Smith felt that these additional locations helped make the protest more effective.
“I don’t think it would have had as much of an impact if we hadn’t gone into different places on campus,” Smith said.
“It was a great way for people to just remember that even though we are in the Wash. U. bubble, we are still very impacted by what goes on outside of Wash. U. in the St. Louis area,” sophomore Daisy Ogede, who passed by the walkout, said.
Earlier in the day, STL Students in Solidarity conducted another demonstration on campus, blocking traffic at the intersection of Skinker and Forsyth Boulevards for around 15 minutes. They called the event “Homework in the Streets,” referencing their status as students outside the classroom.
For a full photo gallery of Monday’s protest, check out this Read All Over post.