Black Lives Matter supporters gather for protest on campus
UH buzzed with energy as a group of students called out “Say her name” to pay tribute to Sandra Bland and other victims of police brutality last Friday outside of the M.D. Anderson Library.
Hosted by the Houston Anti-War Committee and the UH chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, the protest demanded justice for Bland and other victims, such as Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin.
Even students from Texas Southern University and Houston Community College joined in a show of solidarity.
In December, a grand jury decided not to indict anyone in connection with Bland’s death. Things changed in early January when Brian Encinia, the Texas state trooper who arrested Bland, was indicted on perjury charges for allegedly lying about his confrontation with Bland, as reported in the New York Times.
Bland was arrested in Prairie View, a town northwest of Houston.
“We chose Sandra Bland as the focal point because she was the most local of people murdered by the police in the past year,” Hayes said.
There were also leaders from various local organizations such as the Workers World Party, the New Black Panther Party as well as Rev. Ronnie Lister, a Houston-area social activist.
Lister was one of a few who gave speeches.
“I’m so glad to see young people who are part of this magnificent, transformative experience in this country,” he said. “You should give yourself a round of applause.”
A representative from the NBPP gave a speech as well.
When the group began to march around campus, many students stopped and watched; others pulled out their phones and began recording or taking pictures.
“Walking around…was really inspirational,” Alex Hayes, journalism junior and one of the founders of the Students for a Democratic Society said. “That’s the real big thing for me and I’m sure (it’s the same) for everyone in the group (and also) for all the people that were watching.”
Hayes said he knows many students are new to UH and they have probably never seen a protest before.
“All it takes is one protest for you to want to get involved,” Hayes said. “I think it was a success.”
Hayes said that as the group began their march around campus, his hope for humanity was restored.
“It shows me that people actually do care,” Hayes said. “And it shows that people will take their time out of their day to walk around and chant about police brutality.”
Erica Fletcher, a visiting scholar in the Honors College and UH alum, also joined the crowd. She said that Bland’s death is something that impacts the way others see life in Texas.
“We need to think deeply about what it means that some people are discriminated against in a way that’s incredibly brutal, while others are not indicted for their actions,” Fletcher said.
Hayes said that while discrimination doesn’t often affect him personally, due to his privilege as a white man, he empathizes with the victims of police violence and injustice.
“We have to do everything we can to stop it,” he said.
Students for a Democratic Society will hold their first meeting at 7 p.m. on Feb. 3 at the Nook Cafe. For more information, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.