SU protesters march to downtown Justice Center; draw on national momentum to demand justice for local victims

THE General Body supported the Monday afternoon protest, the third in one week.

Standing outside Hendricks Chapel on Monday afternoon, a group of protesters unfurled a big black banner. In white letters, their banner read, “This stops today.” The names of black victims in highly publicized police encounters were printed below. Among these was Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in August, and Eric Garner, who died in Staten Island, N.Y., in July after a police officer put him in a chokehold.

Colton Jones addresses the crowd at the third rally organized in relation to the Eric Garner case within one week.

This banner set the stage for the protest march from Syracuse University campus to the Patrick J. Corbett Justice Center on Monday afternoon, which drew on momentum from the highly publicized cases Ferguson and New York to demand justice for local residents. THE General Body, a coalition of student groups at SU, supported the march as their third within a week.

The march, called the “Syracuse March for Justice,” started at 4 p.m. in front of Hendricks. Colton Jones, member of THE General Body, announced that the student coalition had organized the march specifically to raise the awareness of police brutality toward African Americans.

“We are here because the people in power, the corporations, the governments and the police, hate nothing more than an educated person of color,” the psychology senior said. “We are here because we have seen the power of this community, fighting in solidarity with one another to change our realities and our future.”

Shouting out mantras such as “How do you spell racism? USA!” and “Three, five, seven, nine! Cops do the real crime!” the rally attendees then marched to Bird Library with their banner.

 The organizers had originally planned to march to Schine Student Center, Jones said, but they changed their plans because they knew Department of Public Safety officers surrounded Schine. The protesters instead entered into the library through the University Place entrance. DPS cars were there, but no conflict occurred between the officers and the protesters.

The protesters staged a die-in for 4.5 minutes on the first floor of Bird Library. The 4.5 minutes represented the 4.5 hours that Brown's body lay on the streets of Ferguson. The protesters all lay on the floor, listening to the names of black victims who have been killed or injured in police interactions across the country.

Then the protesters regrouped and marched to the downtown Justice Center, walking along University Avenue, Harrison Street and South State Street in gloomy, 32-degree weather.  The protesters continued to shout out the mantras, including “No justice, no peace! No racist police!” on the way. They sat down in front of the Justice Center on South State Street and demanded justice for local residents.

Madeline Lopez, of New York City, spoke about her son, Edwin Martinez. She said Martinez had died after an encounter with Syracuse police on Warren Street in September.  “We need people to speak up because if we don’t speak up we are not going to be heard,” Lopez said. “And our children are going (to) keep getting hurt. Our children are dying, and nobody is listening.”

Dr. L. Micah O. Dexter II, the newly elected president of Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Syracuse, shared that his family called the Syracuse police after an intruder broke into their home on Jan. 4. Dexter said the police instead handcuffed him and his wife.

“My wife and I spent a night in the jail, and it was horrific to my children,” Dexter said. “My 5-year-old kept throwing up because he has never experienced things like that.”

“If we don’t stand up and unite ourselves together, we will be dead and will not be able to breathe any longer. We’ve got to stand up for righteousness, for people,” Dexter continued. “Lives matter whether they are black, white, green or purple.”

The protesters cheered and applauded through Lopez's and Dexter’s speeches. Hearing the arrest of Dexter and his wife, they shouted out, “Shut it down,” a slogan they have used throughout THE General Body protests as well.

Repeating the mantras, the protesters marched back to Syracuse campus. The rally ended at around 6:30 p.m. at the intersection of Waverly and University Avenues. Miles Marcotte, a geography junior, said he felt empowered and inspired after walking between campus and downtown. “We have bridged the gap between Syracuse University and the community,” he said.

At the end of the rally, Jones stated that the issue has not ended yet and that they would continue to fight for justice. More specifically, Dexter said there would be a talk about how to continue the struggle in Syracuse on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church. He encouraged the protesters to attend the talk.

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