Kent State University’s Black United Students hosted a “die-in” demonstration to protest police brutality against African-American youth on Risman Plaza Wednesday.

The students, representing police shooting victim Michael Brown and shooting victim Trayvon Martin, wore black.

Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18 year old, was shot to death on Aug. 9 by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. His death sparked rioting in Ferguson along with nationwide protests against police brutality.

Some students held signs to protest the brutality while others taped targets to their bodies. Slogans such as “Take the targets off our backs!” were scrawled on the signs.

“We are here today to address injustice and the value of the black life,” said Matthew Thompson, president of BUS, in an address during the protest. “We are here today to do work that was left undone. We are here because we could have all been Michael Brown and the black that we are wearing right now.”

At the beginning of the demonstration, a member of BUS read a poem. The end of the poem signaled for more than half of the students to raise their hands in the air as a sign of surrender, fall to their knees and lay down to symbolize dying.

“It was a really serious thing,” said Josh Lewis, director of political affairs and grievances for BUS. “People were crying; people were really emotional. The thing is that it’s a hot button issue, and it’s still very raw.”

Lewis said the demonstration was the organization’s way of showing that students are ready to take a stand and are capable of taking charge, contrary to their elders’ beliefs.

“There is a feeling out there among some adults that today’s college students aren’t interested in showing this kind of reaction or response,” said Keith Wisdom, interim executive director of AALANA Initiatives.  

Wisdom said the die-in was a good example of students and leaders affecting change at Kent State.

Lewis said that BUS plans to show adults they can take charge by showing responsibility and holding peaceful protests.

“I feel that the steam all too often dies of our outrage too quickly when something like that happens but it still remains raw,” he said. “This needs to be something that continuously we’re working on.”

Many people of different races layed down to be outlined. Lewis said he hopes the community can continue to come together to promote peace.

“I was extremely pleased with (the community involvement) because you cannot grow when all you do is try to affect one specific area,” Lewis said.  

For some people who witnessed the protest, it was eye-opening.

“It was passionate and an emotional experience,” said Dana Lawless-Andric, Director for Diversity and Inclusion.

Contact Teahl Rice at trice7@kent.edu.

Black United Students Protest from KentWired.com on Vimeo.

Correction: This article originally and incorrectly stated that Trayvon Martin was a police shooting victim. Martin was a victim of a civilian shooting on neighborhood watch. Corrections have been to reflect the correct information.

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I applaud BUS and all the students who were involved in this action. I wish I could have been there to act in solidarity with the action. I have much respect for such actions.

However, my comment is more regarding an error in this article. It is important to focus on police accountability and civilian oversight over those we entrust with protecting our communities, and the loss of Michael Brown and Eric Garner (among countless other black men) needs to remain in the collective conscience. However, Trayvon Martin was killed by an overzealous neighborhood watch member. I think it is important to make the distinction because a law protected Trayvon's killer. These laws, (Stand Your Ground) are rooted in political corruption via campaigns led by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Committee). The interpretation of such laws have been proven to be disproportionately biased against poor black citizens. In order to effectively address legitimate grievances we need to close such "loophole" laws, just as urgently as we should seek accountability for those in power.

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