Demonstration seeks to bring attention to police brutality


“No smiling during this,” junior Joelene Joinvil addressed the group of students gathered around Mellon Lounge on April 21. Joinvil, president of the Black Student Union, led participants in what was the BSU’s second die-in, a demonstration meant to bring attention to cases of racism and police brutality. Die-ins are a form of protest where those involved lie down and act dead.

“It disrupts the daily grind and forces people to notice,” senior Brynne Logan said. “It makes people uncomfortable and helps start a discussion.”

Eight students lined up in front of the Evert Dining Room. Each held up a sign with a name. The names were Keith Childress, Bettie Jones, Christian Taylor, Jamal Clark, Samuel DuBose, Deontre Dorsey, Sandra Bland and Calvon Reid—all victims of police brutality. The students read from their sheets and told the stories of each victim.
After sharing, the students would lie down on the ground. Once each story was told, all eight students sprawled across the floor. The rest of the participants followed suit, covering the ground in front of the cafeteria and forcing those entering and exiting the cafeteria to step over their prostrate forms.

The intention behind the act was to grab the attention of passersby and get them to question the event. Most students stepped over the bodies of participants and continued to dinner. Others commented, some disparagingly. Many individuals stopped to observe.

After several minutes passed, Joinvil gave the motion for the participants to get up.

“I’m tired of death and fear and sorrow,” she said. “I could stand and yell ‘til I’m blue in the face but I won’t because I shouldn’t have to defend their humanity.”

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Joinvil had conducted the university’s first die-in after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. The events that followed Brown’s death included protests and riots across the country and incensed a continuing, heated debate about the relationship between police forces and African Americans.

Participants reflected on what they felt while lying on the ground.
“It feels like time is going by so slow when you’re down there,” first-year student Gail Stern said. “It feels like you’re there for an eternity.”

“I feel like it’s powerful,” sophomore Symone Collins said. “But when I was lying there, I really felt dead and like people wouldn’t do anything about it or didn’t care.”

That sense of helplessness was shared by junior Morgan Green.
“It was scary when I was stepped over,” Green said.

Some of the participants were discouraged by the reaction to the event.

“It’s not a joke and while we can’t force people to listen, they could at least be respectful,” said junior Morgan Richardson.

Fellow junior Miles Collins agreed.“Part of the problem is that people can move out of the way to go around it. I hope that it leads to more conversation because people are still dying,” he said.