By Erin Reilly ’20, Editor-in-Chief
Students and faculty at St. John Fisher College gathered for a student-organized protest on campus on Friday morning to remember Daniel Prude, who was killed after an encounter with the Rochester Police Department in March.
“You should be mad, every single one of you,” one student said.
The protest was organized and run by current students, with the time and details circulating among their peers towards the end of the week. The protest began at around 9:30 a.m. in LeChase Commons, the high-traffic area of campus between the academic buildings. As more and more students joined the socially-distanced crowd, chants began to ring out.“This is what democracy looks like,” they yelled.
The students and few faculty members started their march from LeChase commons and continued through Campus Center. They walked across another highly populated area of campus before ending in front of Kearney Hall and beginning their speeches.
The protest began as a statement towards the college and its response to recent events in Rochester as well as the Black Lives Matter movement that’s happening nationwide, and it quickly became an hour of empowering one another and encouraging fellow students to keep speaking up.
As detailed in an article from earlier this week, Fisher responded to the news surrounding Daniel Prude’s death with an emailed statement and a schedule of events to follow in the coming week. Fisher students responded by attending the events, but many have expressed that it isn’t enough.
Hiran Khatri, a current student at Fisher, referred to a commonly used mantra at the college. “To Fisher in general, you talk a lot about the Fisher community, and more specifically, about Fisher Family. I don’t know about you guys, but the family I grew up in took care of eachother,” he said.
Khatri then referred to the fact that one of the police officers involved in the death of Daniel Prude is Fisher alum, a heavily discussed topic of concern among students. “When there are people dying in your own community, you have to take care of them, especially when a member of your family is killing other members. Why aren’t you mentioning that in any of your emails or any messages?” His question was followed by a round of applause, a sign that those standing in front of him were with him.
“I do want to appreciate the message that came out from Fisher about everything that happened, but I do want to acknowledge that it was delayed, and I think a lot of students agree with that. I think a lot of students are at the point where saying something is better than waiting until you say exactly the right thing,” said Madison Byrne, a senior at Fisher. Byrne encouraged students by repeating that there are people behind them and the decisions that they make. She also encouraged students to be involved, not only on campus, but in the city at the protests that are happening every night.
Byrne also encouraged students to hold themselves and their peers accountable. She referred to the University of Rochester, and explained how there are hundreds of students rallied down in the city, fighting for justice, and she urged Fisher students to be doing the same thing. “It’s not on the black and brown students of this institution to teach you why you should be out there,” she said. “It’s now. It’s not in a week. It’s not in two weeks. It’s not when we can figure out a time between homework, it’s now. People are out there every night until midnight, 1 a.m., and then coming to work here and coming to school here.”
Another student that stepped up to the microphone, Ali Zahid, referred to the generation of students standing with him and acknowledged the power that they have. “This is not the time to slow down. This is not the time to be silent. This is not the time to give up. We have power. We have momentum. I urge you to not be afraid of your own capacity to change the world,” he said. His statement was also met with a round of applause, and more students were inspired to speak after him.
Ian Klenk, a student that spoke about white privilege and referred to the death of George Floyd, among the others that were being recognized, urged students to get out and vote. “You want to talk about change? It doesn’t happen when you repost something from some artsy Instagrammer. That doesn’t make change. Too many people think that it does. You go out, you register to vote, and then you vote.”
Another student, Sophia Trozzi, stepped up to the microphone and explained that she had no intentions of speaking but was inspired by those that did. She recounted a story about a situation with a friend of hers and expressed her fear that this kind of injustice is becoming too normal.
“I feel like the younger generation of black and brown people are getting comfortable with this topic, which is not right. Things like this need to continue happening because that can not continue as we grow up.”
The protest ended with everyone in attendance repeating and chanting the names of Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castille, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Alton Sterling, Freddie Grey, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Botham Jean, Stephon Clark, Wardel “Meech” Davis, Tamir Rice, Tony McDade, David McAtee, Atatiana Jefferson, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Daniel Prude, just as the bells rung at 11 a.m.
As the protest concluded, students walked away, empowered to continue to stand up against injustice and urge others to participate.
“It’s scary down there. It really really is. It’s hard to be present down there. But you’ve got to do it,” Byrne said.