On Sunday, Aug. 17, Mercer University students gathered at Jesse Mercer Plaza to commemorate the life of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American shot by Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson, Mo. police department.
While details of the shooting have been largely withheld by the Ferguson police department, of note is that Brown was unarmed and, according to eyewitness reports, holding his hands up in an act of surrender. Wilson proceeded to shoot Brown multiple times.
This incident has sparked national media coverage, linking the incident to the recent deaths of Eric Garner, John Crawford, and Ezell Ford as well. All were African-American men killed by white police officers, inciting comments not only on racial profiling but also police brutality.
The National Moment of Silence 2014 campaign supported syndicated events nationwide on Thursday, Aug. 14. Most Mercer students, however, had not yet moved to the Macon campus at the time of these memorials, leading students Ryan Jones and Brandon Harris-Williams to organize their own event on Sunday.
Jones said this event allows students to “feel like we’re connected to the movement while still having our own individual moment for Mike Brown. … It’s a way to be there without actually being there.” He also feels that most media outlets paint one side of the incident while this event is intended to create a fuller picture of what has happened in the past few months with regards to police killings of people of color.
Mercer’s moment of silence began with an introduction and a brief recap of recent events by Jones and Harris-Williams. On the importance of these memorials, Harris-Williams said, “We’re doing this to show that this is bigger than just St. Louis and Ferguson.”
“Twitter activism” has played an integral role in allowing people from across the country to communicate with each other, with users tagging their tweets with #Ferguson and #NMOS2014 among others. Jones said Twitter provides a forum for discussion and that the Mercer moment of silence is intended “to give people a place where they can air out their feelings on what’s going on and what’s happening—not so much a forum as it is a place to show solidarity.”
Following the recap of recent events, Jones and Harris-Williams opened the floor to anyone in the crowd who was willing to share their own negative experiences with police officers. One speaker, D.J. Eackles, said, “I shouldn’t feel like a target for the police.” After four testimonies, Jones recited his original work, “A Poem for Trayvon,” opining that the well known Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman altercation holds many parallels to events of late.
Harris-Williams and Jones then led the moment of silence, suggesting that members of the crowd reflect on those who died at the hands of police officers and pay their respects to all affected by these events. The two closed the memorial by asking participants to take a picture with their hands up, imitating the pose that Brown held moments before his death.
Jones reiterated, “This event is about the importance of black lives, people of color’s lives, and lives in general.”