Emerson students were among hundreds who protesting in the streets of Boston on Monday afternoon to honor victims of police violence and raise awareness of racism and police brutality.
The 4 Mile March, held on the holiday observing Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, was organized by the Coalition Against Police Violence and an organization called Total Blackout for Reform, according to the event’s Facebook page. Boston’s march was one of 29 initiated by the Coalition Against Police Violence in cities across the country, according to the 4 Mile March website.
Several Emerson students participated, including Dondré Taylor-Stewart, a junior visual and media arts major, who said he attended the march as a quiet participant.
“For me personally, it’s like, ‘Wow, my grandparents went through this, my parents went through this, so that I wouldn’t have to do this, but I’m doing what tons of African-Americans have done before me,’” he said. “So in that sense it’s almost like a weird tradition — one that we should be proud of because we’re letting the country know what we won’t stand for — but I should just be sitting gratefully and looking back on history and saying, ‘Thank God I don’t have to deal with that.’”
Protestors marched from the Old State House on Washington Street to the Museum of African American History, holding signs and shouting chants like “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “This is what democracy looks like,” and “Eric Garner, Mike Brown, shut this racist system down.” Marchers also sang the “We Ain’t Gonna Stop Til People Are Free” song, which actor Samuel L. Jackson challenged celebrities to perform in a YouTube video in December.
Meghan Allen, a senior journalism major, attended with friends.
“I guess it’s my duty as a black person to be here,” she said. “I’d feel pretty terrible if I wasn’t. This is incredibly important.”
When the marchers reached the front of the State House on Beacon Street, organizers initiated a “die-in,” in which protesters sat and lied down in the street in silence as organizers called out the names of victims of police violence. Later, organizers took turns speaking to the crowd.
Senior journalism major Angela Farraguto said she was marching in solidarity with people of color.
“I’m here to raise the voices of my black peers and just raise awareness of the cause because I think too many people dismiss it and aren’t really educated about everything that’s happening right now,” she said, adding that she wanted to represent the spirit of Emerson at the event. “It’s about communication and caring about the community.”
Taylor-Stewart added that while he understands students were just coming back in Boston on Monday, he was disappointed by the low turnout of Emerson students.
“One thing that did bother me about yesterday: We got to Boylston, and to see all the Emerson students just standing and looking from their windows... a lot of people just watching, just passive, nonchalant,” he said. “We’re the artists. People listen to art. It’s Emerson’s obligatory artistic duty to be aware and bring that social change, and seeing people not see a reason to be engaged, that upset me.”
Zoe Fay-Stindt, an Emerson senior, said she feels it is important for all of society to participate in the conversation about race.
“This is everyone’s problem,” said the writing, literature, and publishing major. “Anytime any human being is dealing with this stuff, it’s everyone’s responsibility to speak out. Seeing people be so unified today was really incredible.”