Students gathered outside Cooper Hall on Tuesday in solidarity with protesters across the country to demonstrate against police who act with an excessive use of force.
The demonstration took place in the wake of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri and the decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson for the shooting.
The students initially stood in silent protest. They held signs that brought attention to their objections, with slogans such as “Doing Nothing, Saying Nothing, Changes Nothing” and “You are a sheep if you think we live in a post-racist society.” Many signs included hashtags such as “#USF4HumanRights” and “#BlackLivesMatter.”
Then students began shouting “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and marching toward the MLK Plaza while chanting “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” Additional demonstrators joined in during the procession.
The event was organized by Amnesty International at USF, but a number of other groups spoke during the protest, such as Students for a Democratic Society, Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Student Association.
The student groups gave speeches on racism and police violence to a crowd of about 30 people made up of organization members and bystanders.
The first speaker, Zaid Dabus, a freshman majoring in finance and the president of the USF chapter of Amnesty International, said he organized the event after members of the organization brought the issue to his attention.
After doing some research, Dabus discovered that Amnesty International had strong opinions on Brown’s death. According to Dabus, the Amnesty International-led USF demonstration was a peaceful protest against police brutality.
Dabus said any signs and chants were not the product of Amnesty International, but representative of individual viewpoints. The demonstration brought out a variety of opinions and attracted a crowd outside Cooper.
James Kramer, a political science major and a member of Students for a Democratic Society and Students for Justice in Palestine, said he was demonstrating against racial inequality and police militarization.
“Human lives are human lives,” he said. “We all need to be protected the same way.”
Danya Zituni, a member of two of the participating organizations and an international studies major, spoke on behalf of Students for Justice in Palestine regarding historical and current connections between Palestinians and African-Americans.
“When I stand with the people of Ferguson, I regard them as fellow Palestinians, because our common goal is to live in peace and not to fear for our children’s lives when they are walking down the street,” she said. “Racism is what drives the violence that we see both in Palestine and in Ferguson.”
A chant of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” erupted during the final speech.
Some groups of students walking past Cooper could be heard discussing and disagreeing among themselves.
Connor Lawler, a student majoring in biomedical sciences, said the police officer was simply trying to do his job.
“What would you do?” he asked.
The demonstrators have planned an additional protest for Friday and handed out flyers for a discussion panel entitled “Could Ferguson Happen Here, Should Ferguson Happen Here?” set to take place at 4 p.m. on Sunday at the Uhuru House on 18th Avenue South in St. Pete.