Students stage walkout in protest in wake of Michael Brown grand jury decision


Student and Students in Power member Tony Perez raises his fist, leading the crowd that gathered in the BT Plaza in a chant of “We won’t take it anymore,” referring to recent officer-involved deaths that have and haven’t made national news. Photo credit: Miguel Cid

Miguel Cid

“Hands up! Walkout! Hands up! Walkout! Hands up,” was the call to fellow students on the way to class, along 16th and C streets, and through San Diego City College hallways at 1 p.m. on Dec. 2 — drawing students out of classrooms to gather on the steps at the AH building for a student led “die-in.”

Members from activist clubs such as Students in Power and SAMI SDCC (Students Against Mass Incarceration) — along with about 100 more students, a handful of professors and faculty members, and community organizers — took part in the happening.

“It’s a beautiful day to be out here. It’s a beautiful day to be politicized and to be a part of history. You’ll realize that in 20-30 years from now, people are going to be inspired by the images — by your gestures, by your presences, by your fire,” professor and City College alumni Rosieangela Escamilla said, addressing the students in the crowd.

“In Iguala, Guerrero, they say cuarenta y uno, cuarenta y dos, cuarenta y tres — justicia! In Ferguson, Missouri they say black lives matter,” student Christina Griffin said, drawing a cheer from the listening audience looking up at her, from the bottom of the staircase.

“We are not dealing with just one case or an isolated incident here, but with an event that runs our fingers down the jagged grain of our country’s long history of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism which blunts both our moral vision and our ability to deal with problems here at home,” professor Jim Miller said over a microphone, reading an entry from his recently published weekly San Diego Free Press column. He finished with, “Black lives matter!”

Prior to the reading and student testimonies, student Bianca Arellano gathered volunteers to stage a “die-in,” in which students laid on the ground. Arellano asked for everyone to remain in complete silence for four and a half minutes, representing the four and a half hours Michael Brown laid on the ground after being shot and killed by a white police officer. The silence was broken by student Wilnisha Sutton’s voice, singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

But not all of the students who spoke advocated for the high energy and reactions that the Michael Brown ruling merited. An unnamed student, over the shared microphone, said that the Michael Brown shooting was in the past and that the protesters should move on and work within the system. After multiple attempts to quiet students booing the young lady, the speaker finished and stepped down, passing the mic.

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The school administration was criticized, as well, in part of a speech by Tony Perez, a student representing Students in Power, for its “inaction” in addressing the lost youths from Ferguson, Mo., to Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, Mexico.

“As part of the organizers we want to demand that the administration here publicly release statements in solidarity, with the people in Ferguson and people like us, standing in solidarity,” Perez said after receiving a loud response from the crowd for his opening speech and chat — he yelled “I’m fired up.” The crowd, in unison, responded with “We won’t take it any more!”

Student and musician Clyde Price responded when asked why he joined the walkout ,saying, “We are here in solidarity to walkout — to engage in democracy — to create engaged citizens. We are students and we are citizens, and now we are engaged.”

The next walkout is scheduled for Dec. 10 at 1 p.m., where all of the colleges in the San Diego area will meet at City College for another demonstration and march.