Projects, essays and final exams did not stop close to 300 VCU students and other Richmond residents from shutting down Broad Street Wednesday night to protest against police brutality.
Police blocked traffic and cars caught in the road block caused by the die-in drove over the median to escape. One student yelled “my life is not an inconvenience.” Many different races were present. Together the protesters chanted “Black lives matter” among many others.
Starting in the Compass around 10 p.m. students marched toward Harrison Street coming to a stop on Ryland and West Broad Streets. Close to 50 of the protesters then laid on the street to participate in a die-in for Eric Garner, Michael Brown and other African Americans whose deaths were at the hands of police officers.
The die-in lasted for 11 minutes to signify the 11 times Eric Garner told officers “I can’t breathe” while being choked. The protest stemmed from a grand jury decision to not indict police officer Daniel Panteleo for the death of Garner caused by him being choked to death, an act recorded on camera.
With chants such as “turn up, don’t turn down, this is for Mike Brown,” “I can’t breathe, we got to fight back” and “no justice, no peace,” the protest continued down Broad Street until they reached the intersection of Broad and Belvidere Streets where students sat in the street, blocking the roads from all angles.
“Because we’re getting killed on camera and that … is still not enough evidence for someone to go to jail for taking our lives,” Attalah Shabazz said to protesters about why they should be angry. “We’re hyped over trying to get an indictment, we can’t even get a trial.”
Junior English and African American studies major Shavontae Patrick said at first when her friend Ashleigh Shackelford told her about wanting to start a protest, she planned on finishing a class paper.
“Then I contemplated in my room and I was like, this is bigger than that,” Patrick said. “I came in late, but we shut down the roads and it was just a beautiful thing to see.”
Patrick was apart of the Nov. 20 protest where she performed a poem after Darren Wilson, a white police officer, was not indicted for the death of Michael Brown, an African American teen. She said she wants people to know that the issue is just not about black men, but black women, trans-women, trans-men and children.
“We want our voices heard and we want people to know that we care about black lives here on campus,” Patrick said. “We’re going to keep fighting and we’re not going to stop and we’re going to make sure that this does not become a trend.”
Junior exercise science major Victoria Hall was present at the protest and heard about it on social media. She said she also participated in the VCU protest on Nov. 20 and the Richmond protest at John Marshall Courthouse on Nov. 21 in honor of Michael Brown who was shot by police earlier in the year.
“It’s just not right, it needs to be fixed and I think this is really wonderful,” Hall said about the protest.
Junior social work major Darjane Westry joined the protest after hearing the protest from her apartment. She also went to the previous week’s protests.
“Lives in general matter, whether it’s your uncle, your brother, your father, your grandfather, it doesn’t matter that he’s black or he’s white, somebodies’ child is gone, somebody’s brother is gone,” Westry said. “People who are supposed to be protecting us should never have the power to kill us.”
After an 11 minute moment of silence with hundreds of people sitting on the intersection of Broad and Belvidere and others standing, police encouraged students to leave. Beforehand there was no interference from police except for directing traffic away from the area.
In order to avoid arrest and also with encouragement to let GRTC buses pass through, students then marched down Belvedere, onto West Franklin and back to the Compass. With closing remarks the protest ended close to midnight after another chant of “Black lives matter.”
Saturday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Patrick, along with other members of VCU’s slam poetry club, Slam Nahuatl and Free Figure will host “Black Lives Open Mic” in the VCU Compass.