Students of Wilkes University joined together on February 12 to support the Black Lives Matter protest movement. Assembling in the SUB during club hours, they distributed signs with facts, statistics and the famous “BlackLivesMatter” hashtag to each participant. The protesters stood in the center of the sub in an effort to make their presence non-negatable.
Organized by seniors Kayla Rooney and Erica Chambers, the protest was organized to voice student opinions in relation to the recent criticisms of law-enforcement in the shooting deaths of Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, among others.
“We just felt like it was time for us to make our voices heard about this issue,” said Rooney. “I feel like a lot of us on campus have been talking about it ever since (Black Lives Matter) started. It’s hard to know if people would want to join in with something like this, but we knew it was finally time to do something.”
Rooney makes it clear that the fact that February is Black History Month is no coincidence, either.
“We came up with the idea in January and thought maybe we could wait until February for Black History Month and tie it all together.” Rooney says.
The Black Lives Matter movement and the hashtag that was born from it was started after the fatal shooting of 17 year old Trayvon Martin in 2012. George Zimmerman, the shooter, was acquitted of all charges against him in a highly controversial court case.
The movement rematerialized after the death of Michael Brown and acquittal of Officer Darren Wilson in his death on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.
The student protest was not without its critics, though. One student walked through protestors carrying a sheet of notebook paper with the “AllLivesMatter” hashtag written on it. The social media app YikYak was filled with anonymous users criticizing the actions of the students along with Wilkes University for allowing the protest to happen.
Senior Jaleel Starling, who was among the protestors, commented on the dissent with, “If you really thought all lives matter, you’d be standing with us.”
“I’ll be honest, I didn’t even want to do the protest at first,” Starling said. “But the way you deal with (the criticism) is you focus on the bigger picture and send a positive message.”
A movement inspired by Black Lives Matter called Muslim Lives Matter was recently started after the triple-murder of Muslim students on the campus of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Starling, a practicing Muslim, had this to say: “It was scary to see three people get killed, shot in the head, over a ‘parking dispute.’ It’s like people are targeting all of Islam just because of a select few people who are evil.”
“The way the perpetrators or victims are portrayed in the media always differ based on race. It’s disgusting, the way the media chooses how to cover these stories. They sensationalize them and then downplay other things that happen.” Rooney commented.
Editor’s Note: Beacon Assistant News Editor Pat Walther, as well as Editor-in-Chief James Jaskolka, were involved in the aforementioned protest. The Beacon recognizes that this is a conflict of interest and apologizes for any ethical issues created. Pat and James’ views do not necessarily reflect those of the Beacon staff, and vice-versa.