Around 50 students and faculty demonstrated in solidarity with victims of police brutality in light of the recent police shootings of two black men in Tulsa, Okla., and Charlotte, N.C., in a student-organized rally Friday in Red Square.
Since mid-September, racial injustice in America was once again brought to the forefront of national consciousness when Terrence Crutcher was shot by Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby on Sept. 16 and Keith Lamont Scott was shot by police officers in Charlotte on Sept. 20.
Both shootings were caught on video and have been widely circulated on media networks and social media platforms.
Shelby has been charged with manslaughter by the Tulsa County district attorney, while the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice are currently investigating the Charlotte shooting.
The event included a moment of silence, prayers, time to share and reflect and singing of “We Shall Overcome.” Students held signs with messages including “Black lives matter more than white feelings” and “Stop killing us.”
Several activists offered brief speeches over the course of the event, which lasted an hour and a half. The activists said phrases including “Blackness is beauty, blackness is power.”
Black students also discussed the experience of still being perceived as a threat by police, even though they are students at Georgetown.
Jonese Austin (SFS ’19), one of the organizers of the demonstration, said she and other students felt compelled to speak up on how these recent tensions around the country affect the university community.
“We are tired of seeing our people killed with little to no justice being served. Furthermore, it can be very traumatic to repeatedly see stories as such,” Austin wrote in an email to The Hoya after the event. “We oftentimes feel like we have to continue on with our lives while at the same time dealing with racial oppression while our counterparts remain unaffected.”
Austin said she hoped the event would serve as a safe space for students to share and come together.
“The goal of the vigil — we decided against a die-in — was to create a space for sharing that could foster healing and community,” Austin wrote. “We wanted to bring attention to all that’s going on and how it has affected us as students on Georgetown’s campus.”
Symone Wilson (COL ’19) said it is important for students and faculty to join together against oppression of black people.
“I attended the event because I thought and still think that it is important for people on Georgetown’s campus to see the black community along with allies gathered with each other in a show of solidarity against institutionalized racism and oppression, and more importantly to participate in a safe space in which people could air their feelings about the murders of two more black men by the police,” Wilson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Jess Frankovich (COL ’20), who attended the demonstration, said it succeeded in providing an opportunity for the community to reflect.
“I think it really served as a healing space and there was a lot of sharing of people’s emotional responses to it,” Frankovich said. “So I think it was really powerful to come together and for people to know that they’re not alone in hurting and feeling unsafe or worried about their families and friends.”
Frankovich said the vigil helped reignite campus dialogue on racial tensions.
“I definitely don’t think this will be the last Black Lives Matter or anti-police brutality event on campus,” Frankovich said. “This is the first time this year that the community has come together around this issue so it definitely felt more like a starting point than closure.”
Austin said the event is just the beginning of other efforts in the future to achieve a common understanding on racial issues and foster healing within the Georgetown community.
“This is not the end, but only the beginning of an effort to create healing spaces for the sake of self-care and bring about effective and tangible change on campus and in this nation,” Austin said.