On November 26, the night after the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, more than 300 students and faculty at the five Claremont Colleges, and members of the Claremont community participated in a peaceful march in response to what many thought was an unfair decision by the grand jury.
The march was organized on Facebook by Justin Dixon (PZ ’15), Charlotte Hughes (PZ ’18), Anna Leopold (PZ ’17), Belmont Pinger (’17), and Amber Scott (CMC ’17). The day began at the Honnold-Mudd library where people made signs and were rallied by passionate students and faculty from the Claremont Colleges. Then the march to Claremont City Hall began.
Marchers were chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot” and some also raised their hands in the air. On December 1, Representative Hakeen Jeffries (D-NY) took to the House floor with the same motto and gesture saying, “It’s a rallying cry of people all across America who are fed up with police violence.” The people of Claremont are some of those people.
The marchers also chanted, “No justice, no peace, no racist police.” This chant is a catchy way of saying that Darren Wilson killed Mike Brown and he should face a trial by jury. Since that won’t be happening, protestors argue the grand jury is promoting injustice and conflict. Right before the protestors reached City Hall they were chanting, “Show me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like.” This highlights the fact that every American has a moral obligation to speak up and speak out and take advantage of our democratic right to freedom of speech. And that’s what Claremont was doing.
Once the marchers reached City Hall, they were placed behind barricades guarded by police and started chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, these racist laws they’ve got to go.”
Once the marchers settled down, several professors and students gave passionate and emotional speeches about their deep disappointment with the Ferguson decision.
One of the students was Jennifer Lesorogol (PZ ’17) from St. Louis, Missouri who said that the issue was “bigger than Mike Brown” and “We are not condemned to this fate. If we rise up and talk and speak and have our voices heard we can have hope.”
Another black student said she “felt invisible” and “something has to change.”
A professor from the Claremont Colleges highlighted the “deeply entrenched inequality in our society” and linked what happened in Ferguson to the shooting of Irvin Landrum Jr. 15 years ago here in Claremont. She said, “Fifteen years ago we were standing right here because Irvin Landrum Jr., an 18-year-old black youth of Claremont without a gun was shot dead in the city of Claremont and the police officer that shot him got a commendation. Shame! Shame!” She led a chant of “not one more.”
Neeka Salmasi (PZ ’16) talked about how our nation is “built on a system of racism.” She said that people of every race, “need to come together. Without holding hands through this process the separation is still going to exist. In order to change the system we can not be afraid.”
Soon after Neeka spoke, the protestors marched to the Claremont Police Station.
One of the signs someone was holding up read “#BODYCAMS ON EVERY COP 2015.” This is just one solution to the problem. But a much deeper problem was realized when I talked to local residents of Claremont—the system of racism. A group of black women was standing outside of the Healthy Hair Bar watching the protestors march down West Bonita Ave. I asked them what they thought of the protest. They said enthusiastically, “It’s great. As long as it’s peaceful, it’s great.” A couple blocks down North Harvard Ave. I talked to two white women. They didn’t know that the rally was taking place or why it was taking place. “This is uncalled for.” They said. When I told them that a black male teen is 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than a white male teen they said, “He was guilty. You don’t punch a policeman.” They thought black teens were more likely to get shot because they tend to grow up in bad neighborhoods. These white women highlighted the system of racism in America and proved to us that as liberal as Claremont may be, proof of it can be found here too. The only way we can make change is by doing what more than 300 Claremont residents did—use our freedom of speech and freedom to peacefully protest to make change.