This week, we witnessed the uproar spreading across the United States in response to the St. Louis County grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. We firmly stand with the protestors against the injustice this decision reflects.
Since the Civil Rights Movement, this country has seen many positive institutional changes with regard to racial equality. But the journey toward civility and equality is far from over. Racism is deeply ingrained in our society, a fact that is more prevalent in Berkeley’s public discourse than in other conversations across the country. Our generation has the obligation to address this persistent, insidious racism head on. Many people shrugged off the protest at the West Oakland BART station on Nov. 28 as inconvenient, but we believe these protesters bravely took a stand, sending a clear message that they will not be quiet. We will not be silenced by any form of racism, whether directed toward us, our neighbors, classmates or colleagues.
Every citizen has a right to peacefully demonstrate, as we have supported and promoted in previous editorials. It’s easy to take the right to protest for granted in Berkeley. Protests are a part of everyday life for us as students: Buildings are occupied multiple times a year, and rallies are held frequently on Sproul Plaza. Relatively speaking, it’s fairly safe for us to exercise our right here.
But we’ve seen police and campus intervention in protests before. The fact that neither UCPD nor our administration has intervened in the recent protest against the tuition increase policy is promising but not yet indicative of a systematic shift in the way protests are approached on campus. In this instance, the protest was calm. It shied away from employing drastic measures to communicate its message, which lowered the possibility of a clash between police and protesters.
The right to protest comes with stipulations, though. If a protest escalates beyond what the campus deems “civil,” we worry that the right to protest would be denied. The city of Berkeley may seem better off than its counterparts across the country — our police force is representative of the city’s population, and we witness relatively few incidents of police brutality. But Berkeley is far from perfect. The homeless population, mentally ill citizens and people of color still face discrimination. Removing these discriminatory attitudes would lead to a better relationship between the police and the public, one built on trust instead of fear.
While most students have not taken to the streets to show their frustration, we believe they can still effect change by making sure that institutionalized racism does not continue on and that it fades away as our generation prepares to take charge. By raising our voices in protest against racism instead of trying to pretend that it doesn’t exist, we can become part of the solution.