Students silently protest Ferguson decision with ‘die-in’ on sidewalk

Paige Leskin and Rebecca Savransky

Students lay down on the sidewalks near The Arch in a silent demonstration Wednesday to protest the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri not to indict the police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

Students gathered on both sides of the street at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Sheridan Road beginning at 9 a.m. and stayed until 1:30 p.m., with more than 40 people participating at one point. The 4.5-hour event symbolized the amount of time Brown’s body lay in the street after he was shot.

The event was publicized through a Facebook event titled “Die-In #BlackLivesMatter,” which called for students to lay out and hold signs “to show the constant devalue placed on black bodies.”

“Together, our voices and bodies can be used to stand up against the injustice done against black and brown bodies,” organizers wrote on the event’s Facebook page.

Students joined and left the protest throughout the morning, with numbers ranging from 18 to 40 demonstrators. Protesters also made signs that said “Black Lives Matter” and quoted Martin Luther King Jr. Multiple people who drove and passed by expressed both support for and opposition to the protesters.

At the end of the event, about 30 remaining students stood in a circle in front of The Arch and chanted their reasons for protesting. They named Rekia Boyd, who was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer, and Marissa Alexander, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison after discharging a gun in the presence of her estranged husband and his two children, among the people for whom they were protesting.

“We do it for Mike Brown,” they chanted, “we do it till they free us.”

At a gathering of more than 300 people in Harris Hall on Tuesday night, students discussed taking further action regarding the Ferguson decision, according to multiple sources. The event was closed to the press.

Protests occurred across the country following the announcement Monday that the grand jury in Ferguson would not indict police officer Darren Wilson. The jury decided there was not sufficient evidence to file any indictments against Wilson, who shot and killed 18-year-old Brown on Aug. 9.

Dean of Students Todd Adams came to the protest Wednesday and said he was supportive of the students’ efforts. He said he wanted to ensure that the protestors were “not in a position to impede the traffic and get hurt.”

Students and residents walked by the protest throughout the day, with many taking pictures. Representatives from Adams’ office were also present to monitor the event.

Officers from both University Police and Evanston Police Department showed up to the event. A UP official asked some students to move away from the crosswalk, and set out traffic cones by the protesters so they were visible to passersby.

EPD officers monitored the protest intermittently for safety, Evanston police Cmdr. Jay Parrott said.

McCormick sophomore Bryan Quandt said he participated in the protest because he was concerned about the “weaponization” of the police force. Quandt lay on the sidewalk until about 10 a.m.

Along Sheridan Road, near Technological Institute, Leverone Hall and The Arch, there were chalk outlines of bodies and hashtags with the phrases “#blacklivesmatter,” “#handsupdontshoot,” and “#nojusticenopeace.”

Winnetka resident Laura Montgomery, who passed by the demonstration, said she thought the silent form of protest created a strong message, adding she was impressed with student engagement in the issue.

“I think without words,” she said, “it’s so strong.”

Many participants declined to comment about the protest.

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Twitter: @paigeleskin

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Twitter: @beccasavransky