Diverse panel of students and experts continues campus discussion of Ferguson

Students and diversity-oriented groups, including the Black House, the Black Student Alliance, and Georgetown University Women of Color, gathered in Copley Formal Lounge on Wednesday to participate in a discussion and panel on the events that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting of unarmed, black teen Michael Brown by police.

The dialogue, unlike the earlier Reflections on Ferguson held in Gaston Hall on Aug. 28, gave students the chance to participate in the discussion and hear different perspectives.

This discussion brought to the forefront underlying issues that caused this summer’s events in Ferguson dealing with human rights, racism in society today, and how the media affects public opinion.

Through separate round table discussions focused on all factors of the conversation, students then spoke out with the insight they gained from the discussion. Students and facilitators agreed that in order to end discrimination, action is necessary on campus and in the greater D.C. area to prevent discrimination and racial profiling.

Stef Palencia (COL ‘15) added that events like Ferguson demonstrate a need to be more cognizant of community, world, human rights, and identity problems.

“I think the main take away from it is that things like this, they may seem to be centered around race, but it’s actually an entire community problem,” Stef Palencia (COL ’15) said. “We should all take responsibility that these are all crimes against humanity, human rights, and the right to be the person you were born as and feel safe as.”

Nonetheless, attendees such as Melissa Romain (COL ‘15) acknowledge that labeling and segregation of students on campus has changed in the last year.

“There are more events happening with more outreach and partnership of different groups on campus so that we actually get a diverse group of people to come and talk about race issues,” Romain said. “If we work more on making sure that our outcome is more diverse at these events, it would be a more effective conversation.”

After the student roundtable sections, individuals who had been on the ground in Ferguson shared their experiences of the events.

All of them agreed that low-income people of color in the United States had strained relationships with the police. Jamelle Bouie, a writer for Slate, said that what most deeply impacted him about his experience in Ferguson was the way in which all of the young people there had been stopped by the police many times. In their lives, the police acted as a hostile force as opposed to one that protects their safety.

Jiva Manske, who works for Amnesty International, described the acts of violence that he viewed in Ferguson. He described how the police raided St. Mary’s Church, which prior to the raid had acted as a safe-haven for protesters, providing treatment for teargas, water, and other supplies.

Another main topic was the legal issues that allow situations like Ferguson to occur. Deloris Wilson, a Georgetown Law student, discussed how the Fourth Amendment does not protect poor communities of color. She stated that the phrasing of “reasonable” allows too much room for interpretation, allowing juries to view perpetrators of police brutality’s actions as reasonable.

Brandon Anderson (COL ‘15) agreed, stating that throughout history, “reasonable” has been defined by white, straight, European men and that this legacy lingers in the law today.

The evening concluded with a discussion on what the next steps will be. All of the panelists stressed the necessity of keeping the movement going. Wilson described the movement “#500meetingsforjustice,” whose goal is to have 500 meetings discussing the situation in Ferguson. All of the panelists also stressed the necessity of bringing more people to events such as this. They challenged the audience to bring a friend to the next meeting to spread the word.

Director of Civic Engagement and Politics for the Center for Popular Democracy Katrina Gamble mentioned how, in October, there will be a convergence on Ferguson. The event will also include training in civil disobedience.

Gamble concluded with a plea for people to tell their stories, whether they be of police brutality or more casual forms of racism. She stressed the need for dialogue, both on and off campus. This panel, she stated, is a step in the right direction.

Photo: Josh Raftis/Georgetown Voice

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