Beginning at 11 a.m. on Nov. 25, organizers of the Palo Alto State of Emergency group led between 200 to 300 Stanford students and community members in a demonstration reacting to Monday’s grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown this past August.
The demonstration, also known as Silicon Shut Down, included two simultaneous marches — one primarily for students from the Main Quad to downtown Palo Alto and another for community members in Palo Alto — that converged at Lytton Plaza for a die-in at the intersection of University and Emerson. Following the die-in, participants proceeded to Palo Alto City Hall, where the organization held a speak-out for roughly an hour before marching back through Palo Alto and back to campus.
Throughout the march, students, also holding cardboard signs, conducted a series of chants that referenced the recent verdict on the shooting of Michael Brown that has sparked protests in his community Ferguson, Missouri.
These included “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “This is what democracy looks like” and “We have to fight for our freedom.” The protesters Tuesday were diverse in ethnicity and age. Many wore black and many held cardboard signs, with messages like “Black Matters,” “Unarmed. Only 18” and “No Justice in AmeriKKKa.”
The Palo Alto State of Emergency group is a coalition of individual members from various social justice groups in the Stanford community.
Student leader Tianay Pulphus said, “When we planned this event we knew that whether or not there was indictment, that justice would not be realized….We wanted to make sure that we aided Ferguson’s call to ensure justice.”
The first stop in the march was at the cross-streets of Emerson and University. Two groups of protesters met at the intersection and formed a circle at the center of which one of the student leaders delivered a speech. The group also coordinated a “ring-around-the-rosie” in which an inner circle of members fell “dead,” mirroring the grave subject matter.
After this “die-in,” the group later also congregated in front of Palo Alto City Hall where other community members, of various races and backgrounds, shared chances to stand up and speak their mind.
“Our intention was to first provide an outlet for ourselves, we realized that the entire community also needed healing and wanted to extend the invitation to them as well,” Pulphus said.
“This demonstration was powerful,” said EKela Autry, a participant. “Systemic racism and oppression targets communities of color, but that doesn’t mean it is only our problem. The diversity of the group of students involved proved that students across the board are passionate about breaking these systems down and working together for a greater cause.”
“There is strength in numbers and if we could gather that many people during Thanksgiving break, then I cannot wait to see how many people we can organize once everyone is back on campus,” Autry added.
The Palo Alto State of Emergency group is planning another community-wide demonstration at 10:01 a.m. later this morning.