Students look to do 'something more' in wake of Ferguson decision
Elmwood Avenue shut down for peaceful protest
Elmwood Avenue, normally filled with bustling traffic in Buffalo, was instead filled with crowds of protestors Monday night.
The Kenmore and Buffalo Police Department closed the street to make way for the nearly 100 peaceful protesters, mainly from Buffalo State College, who walked almost two-and-a-half miles down Elmwood Avenue. The marchers were protesting a St. Louis grand jury’s decision to not indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in the death of Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old.
“Our voice needs to be heard,” said Symone Campbell, a sophomore anthropology major at Buffalo State.
On Aug. 9, 2014, Wilson fatally shot Brown, who was unarmed, after the two were involved in an altercation in Ferguson, Missouri. The grand jury, comprised of nine white people and three black people, announced its decision not to indict Wilson Nov. 24. Wilson resigned from the Ferguson police force Nov. 29.
Campbell is also vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Buffalo State chapter.
The Divine Nine, a group of nine Greek organizations, collaborated with Buffalo State’s NAACP to start the protest, which at least a handful of UB students attended.
Deon Bolden, a first-year finance graduate student from UB, brought up the idea of a march to his fraternity, Iota Phi Theta, which is a part of the Divine Nine. But the group felt they could not organize it on their own so they reached out to other organizations at Buffalo State, which Bolden graduated from in May.
He said he wanted the march to combat “slacktivism,” a term used to refer to minimal efforts by people to promote activist issues.
“Just because they’re in Missouri and we’re in Buffalo doesn’t mean we can’t help them out,” Bolden said. “We protest here, someone protest after us, someone protest after us and the noise will get louder and louder until finally we can see some change.”
Jamal Norward, a UB alum, attended the march because he wanted to support members of his old fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha.
“A lot of times, young African-Americans, especially African-American males, are only portrayed one way and that’s what you seen in the rap videos and on TV, on the news,” he said. “But you never really see us coming together and showing that we do care about the upbringing in our community of kids and things like that.”
Those walking for Brown were chanting “No justice, no peace” throughout the chilly evening.
“It shows we can peacefully protest and make a change,” said Deshawn Bolden, president of NAACP Buffalo State chapter and a public communication major at Buffalo State. “Look at the street, we shut down Elmwood.”
Several organizations at Buffalo State came together to organize the march down Elmwood, which resembled many other similar protests going on in cities around the country.
Several UB students held their own protest last Tuesday, walking from the Student Union to the Ellicott dorms.
Tony Brown, a Buffalo State student and president of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity incorporated, said the students were protesting for “something more than to put on social media.”
“We’re not doing this as a trend,” Brown said. “We are the next leaders of the world, we need to show we can come together.”
Protestors chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” at the first police car that showed up in front of the crowd.
As the protest went on, the group changed the known chant “Whose lives matter, black lives matter” to “Whose lives matter, all lives matter.”
Shamon Clay, a criminal justice major at Buffalo State, said the protest proved people want to stand for what they feel is is right.
The crowd ended its march at the Kenmore Police station. Candles were then passed out and lit before the crowd participated in four-and-a-half-minutes of silence. The silence symbolized the four-and-a-half hours that Brown reportedly lay dead on the street in Ferguson.
Protests in other cities also observed the four-and-a-half minutes of silence, with some taking it a step further by lying on the ground for that time.
Gerald Simpkins, a senior physical therapy major from UB, said he wants the protest to make a presence in Buffalo, even if the groups can’t go down to the heart of the issue in the South.
Bolden said he wants the march to inspire students to “speak up and do something,” not just about the Ferguson protests but for any issues in their lives.
“It doesn’t have to be race or politics,” he said. “Just anything in their personal lives or anything they know they can step up to the plate and do something even in your life.”
Amanda Low contributed reporting to this story.