On September 18, students at San José State University in California held a speak out and report back on the recent uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri following the murder of Mike Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.
The demonstration began around noon at the base of The César E. Chávez Monument: Arch of Dignity, Equality and Justice designed by Judith F. Baca in the bustling quad outside the student union building.
Students spoke loud and clear about the murder of Mike Brown, the history of racist policing in Ferguson, institutional racism within San José State University, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
In addition to organizing demonstrations, students created and distributed a zine on the Fight for Ferguson at San José State University. Text from the zine is published below.
THE MURDER OF MICHAEL BROWN
On August 9, Michael Brown was gunned down by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. At least six shots were then fired at Brown -who was unarmed- resulting in his death. The stories and accounts in the media have varied, but newly released video footage shows two white witnesses, with one of them yelling “He had his fuckin hands up.”
One of the witnesses stated, “The cop didn’t say get on the ground. He just kept shooting,” and described seeing Michael Brown’s “brains come out of his head,” still emphasizing that “his hands were up.”
Although multiple witnesses reported similar accounts of what happened, mainstream media scrutinized and dismissed these accounts provided by black residents, only acknowledging the legitimacy of these witness accounts once they had been corroborated by white, male witnesses who were not from the area.
It should also be noted that before joining the Ferguson police department, Darren Wilson worked in the Jennings police department -a department fraught with “so much tension between white officers and black residents, that the city council finally decided to disband it,” firing everyone in the department.
A HISTORY OF RACIST POLICING
The idea that the Ferguson, MO uprisings are attributed to the death of Michael Brown alone is a widely-held pretense; the Ferguson police department has along history of racist oppression and abuse of the Ferguson community. The Ferguson police department is predominantly white, with only three black officers in a 53-officer department which patrols a city with a 29% white population and 67% black population.
Residents of color account for the majority of Ferguson arrests–black residents make up 86% of vehicle stops and nearly 93% of arrests from such stops, despite the fact that White residents in Ferguson have a contraband rate of 34.04% while black Ferguson residents have a contraband rate of 21.71%.
Despite the fact that violent crime in Ferguson has decreased since 2008, and whites in Ferguson are more likely to possess contraband, the black community continues to experience harassment via systemic racism. In a country where a black male is killed by police or vigilantes every 48 hours, the Ferguson police department clearly serves as a threat to communities of color in the area.
SJSU: A RACIST INSTITUTION
The history of San Jose State University has been rife with appalling and persistent examples of institutional and systemic racism. From the recent brutal torture and racist harassment of Donald Williams Jr. in the dormitories, to the highly suspicious circumstances surrounding the claimed suicide deaths of Gregory Johnson Jr. and Brenden Tiggs, to the murder of Antonio Guzman Lopez by SJSU Police with two shots to the back, SJSU has shown itself to be an institution that is unsafe and hostile to students of color and the greater community.
The university has time and time again prioritized covering up and downplaying racism on campus and limiting their liability over any real attempt to address the racism that persists and is embedded in every aspect of this educational institution.
The community in Ferguson refuses to sit idly by while police, government institutions, and self-proclaimed “leaders” attempt to repress and pacify the righteous anger and uprising of a community besieged by centuries of unrelenting racist and colonial oppression. Their resistance and direct struggle for justice has brought the murder of Mike Brown to the attention of the world, and continues to inspire acts of rebellion and solidarity far and wide.
It’s time for the SJSU student body and greater community to question and refuse to accept the superficial and impotent promises of the university to tackle racism. We must seek justice in a manner that doesn’t rely on petitioning the centers of power, and is based on community self-determination, solidarity and collective empowerment.
NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE
“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.”
– Assata Shakur
“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
– Malcom X