Students march for Eric Garner

A march was held Dec. 5 from Speakers Circle, through the columns and to the steps of Jesse Hall.
Graduate student Reuben Faloughi raises his arm i Friday, Dec. 6, 2014, in Columbia, Mo. Marchers protested the New York grand jury declined to indict the police officer responsible for Eric Garner’s death.

Hundreds of students gathered in the rain at Tiger Plaza on the night of Dec. 5. Signs were held up reading slogans like "We Can't Breathe!" "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" and "Black Lives Matter."

The gathering was held in support of Eric Garner, a black man who died from being choked by a Staten Island police officer in July.

The group, led by students Kierra Otis and Jonathan Butler, marched through Speakers Circle, through the Columns and to the steps of Jesse Hall.

"The way all the events have been going is that it's just student leaders from different areas coming together and organizing, so I've been working specifically with Kierra Otis on this one," said Butler, a graduate student.

Along the way, chants of "No justice, no peace, no racist police," "The people united will never be defeated!" and "This is what democracy looks like!" echoed throughout campus.

"At its core, we're really trying to bring about awareness and get people to be actionable and take action and take ownership over this movement because it's not just about black people — it's about all races, how we interact with each other, how we understand each other," Butler said.

When the congregation reached the steps of Jesse Hall, six minutes of silence were held. Each minute represented a child left behind by Garner.

The rain picked up and groups huddled closer together under their umbrellas, all while remaining silent.

"People still believe, because we have Attorney General Holder and President Obama, that it's this idea of a post-racial world, but when you see the comments made on Mizzou's Facebook post when they posted about the Walk Out event (held Dec. 2 in the MU Student Center), you see that it's very rampant and it's a very real thing," Butler said. "We're talking about students, we're talking about Mizzou alumni, we're talking about Mizzou parents, we're talking about Mizzou faculty and staff that have these opinions that are very racist."

Presentations ranging from poems titled "How to survive the police" and "I have died a thousand times" to passionate speeches about the injustices faced by minority groups in the U.S. echoed over the steps of Jesse Hall.

Lighters were passed around and slowly candles were lit throughout the crowd. A list of names was read, along with the circumstances of their death, of black lives taken from Garner to Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and John Crawford.

"We literally have proof of what happened, and Eric Garner getting choked until he died, but still there's no indictment of the police officer, and so that's why it's so important for this movement to keep moving," Butler said.

Butler then stood and chanted "I can't breathe!" 11 times, just as Garner did in the video of his death.

"Conservative, liberal, wherever you are, green party, Tea party, purple party, whatever, like you, just as human beings, you can see that this is unjust and this isn’t right," Butler said.

The crowd concluded the night with a "panic yell" or war cry that echoed off the Columns.

"It's not a Missouri thing,” Butler said. “It's not a Ferguson thing, it's not a St. Louis thing. It's a United States thing, because if you don't say anything nobody else will and if no one talks about it it's just going to keep happening.”

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