For four and a half hours yesterday, students gathered around the roundabout colloquially known as the Circle of Death to raise awareness for the situation in Ferguson as part of an invitation to come to a talk the same night, entitled Ferguson: America’s Movement for Racial Justice. The protest, beyond raising awareness with signs, lasted for four and a half hours to match the length of time Michael Brown’s body was left outside in Ferguson on Aug. 9.
“Our plan was to dramatically decrease the flow of traffic around the circle of death and once we had that objective we started thinking about the safest way to do that, and we came up with these four lines on each of these four major ways into the Circle of Death, alternating individuals with signs so they can see traffic in both directions,” Clayton Evans ’15 said of the origin of the idea.
The protestors standing nearest the circle were silent, while one person on each side spoke outward from the circle, shouting “Slow Down for Michael Brown” at bikers who rode past. Protester’s signs included messages reflecting solidarity for the unvoiced and #MoralMonday. The event was intended to be silent so that the dialogue surrounding Ferguson would happen primarily at the Cemex event later that night, not on the sidewalk.
Some of the people today were sympathetic, demonstrators said, yet others asked who Michael Brown was, which left some participants stunned.
“I guess when the first person who asked me who Michael Brown was, I kind of just repeated the question to myself like ‘Woah are we really asking this question?’” Lindsey Redd ’17 said. “But because I got this response six times, I realized how necessary this protest is and how necessary this event tonight at Cemex is going to be — the fact that people don’t know who this man is and that people don’t know that this is a problem is a problem in itself.”
This event began several weeks ago when Tianay Pulphus ’15 reached out to several students who, like herself, had ties to St. Louis in an attempt to respond to Ferguson’s national call to action. Measha Ferguson-Smith ’17 and Evans were involved in the early stages of brainstorming. Once they had the key idea, they worked with administrators, the Department of Public Safety and sympathetic groups to ensure there would be no arrests, no danger to passersby and a good showing of people.
“We wanted to be sure that people knew what we we’re doing because a lot of people are still unaware of Michael Brown, of his story, of the larger story of the many Michael Browns who have had their lives claimed by police officers, vigilantes, whatever it may be,” Measha Ferguson-Smith ’17 said. “So the flyer was definitely to clarify that message. It was our voice in this demonstration because we didn’t want to put our participants in danger by voicing in response to any sort of opposition, so we had the flyers just to speak for us.”
Demonstrators hope that the event ensured that people attend the talk later last night.
“I think it was extremely useful to choose today because we had an outlet for individuals but we know that some people have no idea who Michael Brown is; some people know but don’t know what to do, and some people know but have never even heard of the event or even knew it was happening,” Pulphus said. “And this was a way to make sure that people were aware and knew about this early enough but also late enough so that they can actually just go to it.”
Contact Alex Zivkovic at aleksa ‘at’ stanford.edu.