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York College Students Hold 'Die-in' to Protest Police-Involved Deaths

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | December 15, 2014 6:19pm
 About 150 students and faculty members participated in the protest.
York College Students Hold 'Die-in' to Protest Police-Involved Deaths
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QUEENS — More than 100 York College students, joined by several faculty members, participated in a "die-in" in Jamaica Monday to protest recent police-involved deaths, including that of Eric Garner.

Dozens of students, many of them wearing “I can’t breathe” T-shirts, started the protest, the latest in a string of demonstrations held across the country, with a moment of silence.

They then lay on Guy Brewer Boulevard, outside the college’s main building, to rally against recent fatal police encounters with unarmed African-Americans, including Michael Brown, killed in August in Ferguson, Mo., and Garner, who was placed in a chokehold by an officer in Staten Island in July.

The participants, who throughout the protest chanted “Black Lives Matter,” "Hands Up, Don't Shoot,” and “I Can’t Breathe,” lay on the ground for four-and-a-half minutes to symbolize the four-and-a-half hours Michael Brown's body reportedly lay on the street after he was shot.

"They [police] are taking away ... young African-Americans, ... men that could be something in the future," said Roberto Brutus, 21, president of the African American Studies Club at York College, who organized the protest.

"These cases where cops, their killers, aren’t being charged... this has to stop," Brutus said.

Several faculty members, including Geneva Walker-Johnson, vice president for student development, joined the protest.

“You are blessed to be able to go to finals,” said Walker-Johnson, who also wore an “I Can’t Breathe" t-shirt.

“What we stood for today are the folks who will never go to finals.”

Several elected officials also participated in the protest in Jamaica, where a large African-American community lives, including local Councilman Ruben Wills and state Senator elect Leroy Comrie.

“No one wants to take it anymore because the police have declared open war on all black citizens," Comrie said. "We need to make sure that you keep the heat in the street, keep the protests going."