By Katherine King
Chants of “No justice! No peace!” echoed across Middle Path this past Sunday as students marched in recognition of recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and in solidarity with protests occurring across the country. These protests were sparked by the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson and the subsequent grand jury decision, announced on November 24, not to indict Wilson for Brown’s death.
The organizers of the march and gathering at Kenyon also cited a desire to protest recent killings, including that of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after being placed in an illegal chokehold by a police officer in New York, and Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy who was holding a pellet gun when police fatally shot him in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Black Student Union, Discrimination Advisors, Sisterhood, Kenyon Democrats, Kenyon Students Against Gun Violence and the Roosevelt Institute Chapter at Kenyon all sponsored the event. Two groups of community members met at 1 p.m. on Saturday, one at Old Kenyon Residence Hall and one at Bexley Hall. The groups chanted and carried signs bearing slogans such as “No Justice, No Peace” and “Black Lives Matter.”
When the groups met in the Village, they stopped to listen to speakers, including students, professors and Gambier-area-residents. Anyone could stand on a bench and share his or her thoughts. Students shared pride in the Kenyon community and the positive experiences they have had along with problems they still see on campus. A sit-in on Middle Path followed the speeches.
President of Kenyon Democrats Sam Whipple ’16 acknowledged critics’ doubts about the effectiveness of a march at Kenyon. However, he believes the march itself was still valuable. “It’s hard here,” Whipple said. “We’re a very isolated community. It’s not like there’s a police precinct we can march to. We can’t really shut down traffic. So my feeling was that at the very least what we could accomplish with a march, with getting a really large group of students and community members together, was to at least stand with the protesters who had already been out already, to show the campus support, the diverse campus support that there is … and just to come together as a community.”
Tomas Grant ’16, president of the Black Student Union wrote in an email to the Collegian, “It really touched me to see the Kenyon community come out and support the march. I was glad that students, faculty, and all others that participated were able to lend their voice to the multitude of protests going on across the nation.”
President Sean Decatur spoke positively about the march on campus this past weekend and discussed how conversations would continue in the future. “I think there certainly were a lot of strengths and in the moment, it brought people together to have some conversations about these important issues, but it’s really just the starting point and there’s a lot of work to be done there,” Decatur said. “I’d be curious … whether some of the ideas coming out of this movement … may be a way to build a next step of conversations on campus.”
On Monday, a group of around 60 Kenyon students also attended protests at The Ohio State University. Students marched to the Columbus Police Station to protest police brutality in the community. Muhammed Hansrod ’17, who attended the protest, wrote the following in an email to the Collegian: “At the Ferguson Movement protest in Columbus yesterday, I noticed that every single police officer surrounding protesters was white. For diversity, there was one policewoman who was also white. Most of the protesters were black and brown, although some white protesters were present. For me, the most striking revelation of racial inequity at the protest is that white people continue to act as the sole representatives of the law and people of colour continue to be at the mercy of these armed white officers. Informal apartheid exists in the United States of America.”
Students have also been involved in events around the country. Madi Thompson ’16 lives in Florissant, Mo., a town neighboring Ferguson, saw the movement up close over Thanksgiving break.. “It was weird to see all of the guns and nerve-racking to see tanks in the grocery store parking lot, but it was more like surreal,” she said. Her main criticism of media coverage of Ferguson is that the violence is overblown; she emphasized that the crowds were not attempting to do harm. Thompson attended one night of protest in her hometown. “It was just incredible to see how much tension there was because you see the National Guard all standing there with like no expressions on their faces and then the crowd that was so emotional directly in front of them,” she said. “
The campus will continue to talk about the issues surrounding Ferguson. There are have already been other events including a panel with professors and President Decatur on Tuesday, Dec. 9 and a discussion led by Project Open Voices on Wednesday, Dec. 10.