In a die-in performance, protesters lay on the ground for a moment of silence in remembrance of Anthony Lamar Smith in the University Center on Tuesday.
The protest started with 75 Webster students and faculty gathered in the quad for opening speeches by student organizers Miranda Alexander, Chontol Calvin, Zoe Burton, Makenna Burton, Kat Scott and Aideen O’Brien. Calvin emphasized the protest is not a violent one, but rather based on community solidarity and togetherness.
“This is about us being together and solidifying that we will not stand for any more injustice,” Calvin said. “I’m tired of waking up and seeing another black life taken. I’m tired of people just being angry for a moment and then it’s over. It’s like that life is done and that no one remembers. We will remember from Trayvon Martin to now.”
The student-led protest is a reaction to the recent not guilty verdict Jason Stockley. Stockley was on trial for the murder of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith in December 2011.
Protesters marched from the quad to the intersection of Edgar Rd. and Big Bend Rd. chanting “it is our duty to fight for our freedom” and “it is our duty to win.”
The number of protesters grew to over 150 by the time they reached the stop light. Sophomore Makeya Moore joined the protest to spread the message of equality.
“I feel like the fact that we’re doing this is very powerful, but we need to do it again,” Moore said. “Seeing black people and white people come together, all types of races come together to fight for this and stand up for the black people that have been killed for no reason is a beautiful thing. It’s amazing because you don’t see it a lot.”
The Webster Groves police were on standby until protesters were in the middle of the intersection. A police officer approached Calvin and told her the protest is an illegal assembly and they need to move out of the streets. Protesters mingled and chanted “whose streets, our streets” and eventually linked arms in defiance on the sidewalks and crosswalks at the intersection.
The police gave protesters two minutes to disassemble. Protesters chanted “no justice, no peace, no racist police” as they broke off their linked arms and marched around the intersection. Calvin said students need to protest because they are the next generation of leaders.
“[This] is a time to be loud, not to be quiet,” Calvin said. “It is time for us to take a stand because we are the future. We need to keep this movement going for our brothers and sisters that can’t say anything.”
Protesters kept their signs raised as they left the intersection and headed back to the quad. The police stood by without any further interference with the group.
Philosophy professor Kate Parsons protested with students in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. She said she hopes the university takes a stand in condemning police brutality and protect the students.
“This is a loving, caring response and movement,” Parsons said. “I hope the message won’t be just that an intersection was shut down.”
The march moved from the quad to the University Center to perform a minute long die-in and immediately headed toward President Elizabeth Stroble’s office in Loretto Hall. The six-student organizers put together a list of demands directed to Webster University and St. Louis officials.
The list demands Webster University to condemn police brutality against students and community individuals as well as insuring a safe space for students. Alexander, one of the writers of the list of demands, urged Webster to take action on the circumstances students face. Alexander saw Provost Julian Schuster after the protest and informed him of the demands and requested a response within a week. If Webster does not respond, organizers plan to coordinate more action.
“The reason we’re all here, is because we encourage students at this university, at other universities…all students across the nation and internationally, to stand up for justice,” Alexander said. “Stand in solidarity with one another, stand up for black lives and attend actions and create your own.”
Organizers of the protest wanted people to leave with a positive energy and encouraged to take action when injustice is around. The group chanted “we must love and support each other” when Calvin suggested protesters give a hug to one another.