The boisterous chanting of “Whose streets? Our Streets” filled the night air in Ferguson within minutes after the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the killing of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown.
The melancholy call-and-response and feelings of discontent consumed the voices of those who protested. A diverse group of parents, students, children and other Tallahassee residents, who expressed great concern over the lack of indictment, were in attendance.
“I am very angry and saddened at the decision the grand jury has put forth, “ said Avinash Ramanathan, the Dream Defenders campus coordinator for Florida State University. “He [Brown] had his hands up begging for surrender and yet he was shot; an 18-year-old, unarmed man… and that is unacceptable, and I think he [Officer Darren Wilson] ought to be indicted for that.”
The group of protesters was first assembled at the Leon County Civic Center, where many convened to fight for what they called one common goal: justice for Mike Brown. They then set out to walk the streets of Tallahassee and headed for the place where laws are born in the capitol city.
“I advise black and brown people nationwide to continue to protest, to continue to form organizations of power,” Ramanathan said.
He said that if people of color protest, it may create a sense of reservations for white police officers before taking another black life.
“Police officers would be able to have that fear that if they do shoot another unarmed black teen, it will be covered, and it will be broadcasted nationwide,” Ramanathan said.
Since the night of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Wilson, protests have become more frequent and in some cases more violent around the country.
In fact, 24 hours after the decision, Florida A&M University students stood out in the rain to hold a prayer vigil to honor and support the life of Michael Brown. All students were encouraged to clothe themselves in all black.
“It’s clear that to America, black lives don’t matter,” said Florida A&M University student Kandice Asbury. “After hearing about these types of situations and how they keep happening over and over again, from Trayvon Martin to Mike Brown, it’s hard to just gather emotion for something that continues to happen.”
The steps taken by Tallahassee citizens were the same ones taken in states such as New York, California and Texas, to name a few.
Even colleges and universities around the country have staged protests, blocking and shutting down major intersections.
The University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., was one of those colleges. Many students staged a protest that blocked the intersection of Cumberland and Street.
UT Student Danielle Polk said that she was leaving work when she saw the protest. Polk said that the sound of protesters captivated her attention and that she went to observe for support.
“I believe in the change that needs to take place in law enforcement,” Polk said. “I just wish men of color were treated equally.”
Polk has an African American brother, Cameron Polk and an African American fiancee, Aaron Hall. She said that she really wishes both Aaron and Cameron could live like everyone else and not have to think so negatively about the law.
Other students from Tallahassee Community College, FAMU and Florida State University gathered for a peaceful protest, entitled “Black Lives Matter.”
Students held a “die in” in honor of Michael Brown, which blocked the intersection of Tennessee and Monroe Street.
“When they shoot and kill our people we are at unrest and by laying down there, blocking traffic, it showed people how it feels to be at a disservice,” said FAMU student Ryan Kornegay. “People need to understand that we are tired of this mess that’s going on.”
Kornegay said that while he and other students were lying in the street, residents and passers-by were honking their horns and yelling out racial slurs in response to the peaceful protest.
“We all just continued to sing songs about justice and chanted ‘black lives matter,’” Kornegay said.