VCU students rally against Ferguson’s “war zone”

“Hands up, don’t shoot.” Vigil-goers raised their arms in silent protest. Photos by Michael Pasco.

Matt Leonard
Online Content Editor

Two rallies will take place in the VCU area in response to the death of an unarmed Michael Brown, shot Saturday by Darren Wilson, a Ferguson PD officer.

The first rally was held Thursday 7 p.m. and began at 626 E. Broad St. in Richmond. It was part of the national Twitter campaign #NMOS14, which is calling for a national moment of silence on August, 14th for Brown.

Nationally, the event was organized by Twitter user @FemenistaJones. The march in Richmond was organized by Ratwoine Fields, Kara Thompson and Kevin Hickey.

“It made me angry,” Thompson said of the events in Ferguson, MO. “It’s really senseless and it’s a form of dehumanization. I don’t agree with it, a lot of people don’t agree with it.”

Candles were lit to remember Michael Brown during the moment of silence and solidarity.

Hickey said the meaning of the silent protest Thursday was to show that violence is not necessary in creating change.

“Especially in the black community and the black culture we don’t want to shed a negative light on ourselves,” he said. “We’re trying to stand up for something that we feel is wrong.”

Jerel Smith, a junior accounting major at VCU said the news from Missouri caused him to feel a “blind anger.”

“I actually got to the point where I felt physically ill over everything happening there,” Smith said.

Richmond PD block off Belvidere traffic to allow marchers to pass without conflict.

Those participating in the rally were escorted from University of Richmond Downtown to Monroe Park by the Richmond PD. They blocked off intersections to traffic as marchers walked towards their destination.

Brown was an 18-year-old black man who had recently graduated high school and was accepted to college, as reported by The Washington Post. The Ferguson community was enraged by the news of his death. Protests began that night and have continued since.

Police from the city of St. Louis and the Missouri Highway Patrol were brought in around 11p.m. Sunday after riots began to escalate.

A Federal Aviation Administration ban on non-emergency flights over Ferguson and a ban on news trucks entering the town have residents calling the situation a “media blackout” and an infringement on First Amendment rights.

Incidents of police brutality including unlawful arrests, first amendment rights violations and unnecessary use of force have been a result of the original incident.

The police said they are working within their bounds to pacify what Mass. Senator Elizabeth Warren calls a “war zone.” Police officers have been using tear gas, rubber bullets, armored vehicles and riot gear to disperse what many are calling peaceful protests.

“The militarization of the response became more of a problem than a solution,” said Missouri Senator McCaskill after she was herself tear-gassed during a protest.When she asked the police chief if she would once again be tear-gassed if she were to return to a protest, he responded with “I hope not.”

Journalists covering the story Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly — from the Washington Post and The Huffington Post, respectively — were detained by officers dressed in full SWAT gear while the two were doing work in a McDonald’s.

Both say they were thrown around by officers and handcuffed. Officers told them the reason for the arrest was “trespassing in a McDonald’s.” Personal information and mug shots were never taken by officers. Journalists were released Wednesday after an officer came into the holding area and asked “who is media?” A police report was never filed for Lowery nor Reilly.

They both mentioned on their Twitter accounts that their Miranda Rights were never read to them. When they asked for the names and badge numbers of their arresting officers, they were ignored.

Antonio French, a local alderman for the 21st ward of Ferguson county, was also arrested. He has been exhaustive in his coverage of the protests via social media, namely Twitter and Vine.

Governor of Missouri Jay Nixon has come forward to say he hopes for a “thorough, transparent and impartial” investigation of the shooting.

“While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public,” he said in a press release. “We must also safeguard the rights of Missouri residents to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern.”

This sentiment was echoed by President Obama in a press conference Thursday starting at 12:40 p.m. Obama was briefed on the situation by attorney general Eric Holder.

He announced that both the FBI and the Department of Justice will be helping with the investigation of Brown’s death.

The Department of Justice will be working to help local officials implement tactics that will “maintain public safety without restricting the right of peaceful protest while avoiding unnecessary escalation.”

“Today I’d like us all to step back and think about how we’ll be moving forward,” Obama said. As of Thursday afternoon Governor Nixon announced that Ferguson would be under the control of the Missouri Highway control.

There will be a second rally in Richmond on Sunday. It is a march against police brutality to John Marshall Court House.

The NY Daily News reported another unarmed black man was shot by police in Los Angeles on Monday. Ezell Ford, 25, was mentally challenged and was lying on the ground when he was shot.


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