(Photos by Abbie Parr)
For 4.5 minutes, the Colorado State University Plaza fell silent Monday at noon in memory of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri by police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9.
“That silence was pure silence and that was so powerful, having a group of people willing to stand together in solidarity,” said Sami Slenker, international studies senior and an organizer for the event.
On Nov. 24, a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson for the shooting and killing of Brown. Immediately following the decision, Ferguson and other cities across the U.S., including Denver, took to the streets in protest — some causing violence and others rooted in peace.
Due to fall break at CSU, students waited until classes commenced to demonstrate their solidarity with the rest of the nation.
On the night of the decision, Slenker knew this was something students needed to discuss.
“I wanted to do something to unite students to start speaking about it and something to show that we’re in solidarity and we’re paying respect with the 4.5 minutes that Michael’s parents requested,” Slenker said.
After a week of preparation, her friend and health and exercise junior, Yohana Tuquabo, helped by getting the Black Student Alliance and United Men of Color to co-host the event. Together, they managed to get 350 people to RSVP on Facebook. By noon on Monday, when the 4.5 minutes of silence began, roughly a 100 students showed up with signs saying, “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice for the Oppressed,” on the Plaza.
Once the silence was over, African American undeclared junior Kwon Yearby spoke a few words to the crowd.
“Racism matters,” Yearby said. “And if black lives matter, we need to do something about it. I think the biggest thing we can do right now is show our black men and black women that we love them, and for everyone else, we need to fight this hate with love.”
Yearby said before Ferguson, he didn’t think racism was prevalent.
“For a while, I thought race didn’t matter, race wasn’t real,” Yearby said. “But, it’s very real and the implications are huge.”
According to Yearby, he’s never seen such “outright racism (and) outright prejudice.”
Yearby and others who spoke to the crowd encouraged everyone to hug each other in solidarity.
Cash Thomas, an attendee in elementary school and the son of Bonnie Thomas, a social work senior, hugged Yearby along with his brother and sister. Thomas almost left her three children at home due to concerns about the protest escalating, but wanted to show them the meaning of equality.
“I felt like this was important enough for me to bring them,” Bonnie Thomas said. “I’ve seen the affects that this incident has had on my friends and people I care about, and so it’s just important. I think every life matters, there’s no better way to learn that then something like this.”
Alongside Bonnie Thomas stood members from various CSU communities including the African American community, LGBT community, Ethnic Studies Department and Student Leadership.
“I think it’s really powerful to see people from all different walks of life who are all going to CSU, and some who aren’t going to CSU, here and wanting to keep fighting,” Slenker said.
(Video by Karsen Buschjost)
Collegian Reporter Lawrence Lam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LawrenceKLam.