Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

College Students Take to Streets

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

College Students Take to Streets

Article excerpt

Across North Jersey and the state, university students marched and chanted "Black lives matter!" on college campuses and on streets and dropped to the ground for several minutes to call attention Wednesday to the recent deaths of black males in confrontations with police.

They called the day of activism "New Jersey Shut It Down" a simultaneous demonstration to bring awareness of lethal police procedures and to protest recent grand jury decisions not to criminally charge police officers in the shooting death of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., and the chokehold death of a black man in Staten Island.

The demonstrations were the latest in protests across the nation and abroad that have included pleas for changes in the justice system and renewed conversations about whether racism is a factor in such killings.

"The justice system isn't held accountable and doesn't provide justice for these victims," said Zellie Thomas, an activist from Paterson and one of the organizers of the statewide events.

Afternoon demonstrations were held at Montclair State University, William Paterson University in Wayne and at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Students at Seton Hall University, Rutgers Newark, Kean University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Fairleigh Dickinson University held one demonstration together in Newark. Demonstrators were largely black, but many students representing diverse backgrounds and nationalities also participated.

Thomas, a graduate of WPU, said organizers aimed to send a strong collective message.

"A lot of students nowadays don't realize their history, and they look for someone else to be the leader, and what we are trying to do is to empower the students now -- this generation, to let them know they don't have to look for anybody else: You are the leaders you are looking for," he said before the Newark rally.

In Wayne, a snowfall didn't stop about 80 students from their march, which drew dozens of police cars and officers to Hamburg Turnpike, where the demonstrators walked and chanted "Hands up, don't shoot!" and "Our voice, our streets!"

When students arrived near the intersection with Shearwater Lane, they stopped in front of a police vehicle and staged a "die-in," dropping onto the wet snowy roadway. As they lay on the ground, they first shouted a series of phrases, then began a five-minute period of silence.

"It was cold and surreal,'' said Ana Polanco, 24, of Paterson. "This shows that we actually care [about] what is going on."

The interaction between students and police grew tense when officers tried to hurry the marchers with time limits, and when they tried to prevent students from continuing the march on Hamburg Turnpike on the way back to campus. …

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