On Wednesday, Nov. 19, a large crowd gathered in the Alumni Memorial Building for an Open Forum on six University of Tennessee students’ visit to Ferguson, Mo. to protest the shooting of Michael Brown.
The Forum began as the situation in Ferguson was explained, which started with the death of Michael Brown, a young, African American boy shot by Ferguson police.
“It was just awesome to see,” said Jasmine Taylor, one of the panelists who took the trip to Ferguson. “I wanted get with the people. I wanted to know what it was like to be there and be in the moment with the people.”
Taylor was raised in Memphis, Tenn. and said that having a background there, seeing African-Americans lose their lives to law enforcement for unnecessary reasons, made her want to see people like the ones in Ferguson “put their grief into action.
The panel said one of the most difficult things of the protests was actually hearing Michael Brown’s mother speak to the crowd. Hearing her say that she was looking forward to watching her son grow into a successful man and that she, unjustifiably, did not get that opportunity.
Another point that the students made was the fact that the organizers of the protest did not wish for state intervention. A representative from the U.S. Department of Justice was present in Ferguson while the members of the panel were there. The organizers voted for that representative to leave, because their issue was on a level with the people, rather than the government.
“Why aren’t we acknowledging that only black males are being persecuted? Many women, too, are being killed unjustifiably. We need to look at these people as citizens, rather than ‘a black male,” said Dr. Shannon Williams, assistant history professor at UT.
A member of the Fight for 15 program was also in attendance at the forum. He spoke about his individual experience of being arrested on the streets of Ferguson after protesting and blocking traffic alone for hours.
Although the panelists aren’t in Ferguson any longer, the protests are still underway. Monday, Nov., 17, the Governor of Mo., Jay Nixon, declared a state of emergency.
Edited by Ryan McGill