By Jocelyn Cano
Thunder roared above the Cloister Walk as students and staff stood in unison at the Black-Lives Matter! Human Lives Matter! Justice for Mike Brown! Walkout.
The rally on August 25th was held in support of Michael Brown, a case that has sparked heated controversy and arguments on racial issues and police brutality. On Aug. 9th, African-American 18-year-old Michael Brown, was shot and killed by white police officer Joe Belmar.
Shortly thereafter, riots and protests broke out in Ferguson, MO. The facts on exactly how and why Brown was killed still remain a mystery, but that has not stopped the retaliation.
Dominican faculty, staff and students braved the threat of bad weather. The walkout began with an introduction by Claire Noonan, Vice President of Mission and Ministry, and an interfaith prayer by senior Briana Martinez. A list of alleged police brutality victims was read by senior Stephanie Zavala.
The walkout was a way to show support for Brown’s family and the people of Ferguson and to raise awareness about police brutality.
Members of the Dominican Immigrant Student Collective, an on-campus support system that creates safe spaces for undocumented students, helped put together the rally. Planning began just two days in advance of the event.
“Arianna [Salgado] came to me with this idea. She was asking us to help put this together on campus. She was asking [us] to participate in this National Hands Up Walkout,” Zavala said.
Despite the last-minute planning, professors, faculty members and students showed up and participated. “I was overwhelmed with the response [and] at the group of people,” Zavala said. “It says a lot about Dominican. I come here knowing that this is a place that supports justice and pursues truth. It’s nice to feel that we have the support of the staff and that they’re following Dominican values.”
President Donna Carroll stood among the crowd. “I am proud of them that they took initiative,” Carroll said.
Dominican’s Student Government Association (SGA) has taken matters into their own hands and is developing different plans to work with the River Forest Police Department (RFPD). These plans include setting up a diversity committee within SGA, and planning educational pieces regarding the situation in Ferguson. President of SGA, Cuberto Aguayo has been working with administration to create a panel discussing the Ferguson case and how it relates to bigger issues in the country.
“SGA is planning to craft a memorandum of understanding of what [Dominican] students should expect from the River Forest Police Department,” President Aguayo said. “This memorandum of understanding will give students a better idea of what to expect during a police encounter with RFPD.” It will enforce what should already be expected from our police department; this is a step SGA is taking to prevent policy abuse.
Aguayo said RFPD does have the option to reject the memorandum but that he will “Purse any means necessary to make sure they sign.”