On Dec. 15, almost 75 York College faculty and students participated in a “die-in” for victims who have died from police brutality, shutting down one-third of Guy R. Brewer Blvd.
For approximately 5 minutes, protesters laid silently in the street, to represent the hours Michael Brown’s body was left on the ground.
Roberto Brutus, a computer science major, and the president of the African American studies club, organized the die-in.
“I wanted the York College community to gather together in solidarity, not just the students, but also the faculty, because of the recent events that occurred here in New York City, and also in the city of Ferguson, to shine a huge light throughout America on police brutality,” Brutus said.
Dr. Jean Phelps, the Director of student activities said, York College is the first CUNY institution to protest the decisions made by the grand jury in New York City, and also Ferguson.
“The school’s public safety and the 113th precinct will help shut down Guy R. Brewer Boulevard,” Phelps said.
As protesters left the York College Atrium, and walked into the street they said, “I am Mike Brown, I am Eric Garner, I am Akai Gurley, I am Trayvon Martin, I am Amadou Diallo.”
Brutus is no stranger to fighting for a cause. “Just this Saturday I helped lead the Million Man March, in downtown New York City, as a matter of fact, my chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Incorporated, the Theta Epsilon Chapter, we served as security for the victims’ family, and we marched with them all throughout the city,” Brutus said.
According to the recent York College Policy on rallies, demonstrations, and public assemblies, York College respects the right of all members of the academic community to explore and to discuss questions which interest them, to express opinions publicly and privately, and to join together to demonstrate their concern in an orderly fashion. It is the policy of York College, to protect the right of voluntary assembly, to make its facilities available for peaceful assembly, to welcome guest speakers, to protect the exercise of these rights from disruption or interference.
“We’ve been promoting this since last week, we have flyers hanging around, we sent out various amounts of emails to different departments of the school, so I’m expecting a lot of people to come,” Brutus said. “At the same time, if not a lot of people come, that is not my concern. My concern is the people that do come, and actually do have a passion to get the word out.”
Collyssa Benn, a graduating nursing major said, “I did not have time to [protest].”
Being a student, and an active member in the York community, Brutus is aware of the stress his fellow peers are under.
“I actually wanted to do it last Thursday, but being that today was the last official day of classes before everyone goes into finals, I just wanted to get everyone’s attention, as quickly as possible right before they focus in on their finals, and finishing out the semester,” Brutus said.
The York College Vice President, Geneva M. Walker-Johnson said, “When you get angry, keep it inside, because when you show out, you might get blown out.”
“I just wanted to keep the community aware, and just make sure that we acknowledge the situation, and just keep it evident, as much as possible,” said Brutus.