Young Activists Club marches for justice

On Wednesday, December 10th, students lead by the Young Activists Club marched in Dobbs Ferry to voice their opinion on the lack of justice served to police officers involved in the murders of unarmed black men. Though the protest was non-violent, many students felt angered and simply defeated due to the shear lack of consideration for the lives of not just the victims of police brutality but for the sad truth that in the 21st century racial profiling is still present in our police force.

Senior Amalia Mayorga came up with the idea for the march. She believes that having the community come together can help instigate change.

Mayorga said, “When an injustice is served to one person in our country, it’s not just their problem, it’s everyone’s problem, and if it isn’t nothing happens. We needed people to participate in this march because even though most of the people in our school belong to the upper middle class white elite, and issues like this don’t directly effect us at all times, it is still something that should be one of our main concerns because it’s still an important issue in our daily lives.”

Marchers gather after demonstration. Seniors Kaan Solakoglu and Jonah Ury announce plans to reassemble at a protest in Union Square on Saturday, Dec. 13.

Science teacher Elisabeth Merrill said, “I was saddened by how unjust our justice system is. Justice should be colorblind and it definitely isn’t.”

The march started at 3:30 and went on for an hour. Participants held up handmade signs, chanting, “I can’t breathe” and “No Justice, No Peace,” along with other slogans. Drivers honked in support, and pedestrians held up their thumbs in agreance. Others were not as supportive, one man stopped in the middle of a crosswalk to roll down his window and curse at marchers.

The march was hosted by the Young Activist Club. Senior Kaan Solakoglu said “As vice president of the Young Activists Club, I felt a responsibility to spread awareness when I heard the news of Eric Garner incident. I was saddened and angered, and I knew a lot of other people were as well. I thought we should use the energy to make change happen.”

Marchers hold up signs that say “I can’t breathe,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

One man, Bob Sacco, said in response to the march, “The verdict was a terrible thing. Half of these people don’t know what the hell they’re doing. They should know what they’re doing if they’re going to do it. This (the march) just disturbs me.”

However, many faculty members who participated in the march were thrilled that Master’s students were interested in social rights issues.

Matthew Ives, Head of Upper School said, “I absolutely respect the student’s right to protest. We encourage students to speak their minds and are proud that they are voicing their opinions, but this is a controversial topic and the school never takes political stands.”

Junior Gigi Lavigne is a Dobbs Ferry resident. Lavigne said, “I think it’s a monumental moment for Dobbs Ferry and the rest of the river towns. I don’t believe we have seen anything like this before.”

These protests, along with others around the country, have been sparked by cases of police brutality. In one instance, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed on Aug. 9, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Mo. The St. Louis County prosecutor announced that a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Wilson of any charges. And though the eyewitness accounts and lack of evidence in this case has lead many to empathize with Wilson, the next example lacks that ambiguity.

On July 17th, 43-year-old man and father of six Eric Garner was supposedly selling untaxed single cigarettes (the cigarette tax per pack is $4.35 per pack) was approached by several New York Police Department (NYPD) officers. As he told them to leave him alone, he was put into a chokehold (which is prohibited by the NYPD) and slammed to the ground, without being read his Miranda Rights. He repeated, “I can’t breathe” several times before losing consciousness. While waiting for the ambulance, Garner laid, still alive, on the floor an onlooker asked an officer they were not preforming CPR, to which he responded with “because he’s breathing.” Garner was pronounced dead in the ambulance of a heart attack due to compression of the neck. Months later a New York Grand Jury fails to indict Daniel Pantaleo and many Masters students felt that justice had not been served.

Regardless of what people thought of this march, the objective of it was to spread awareness, to get people talking and voice their opinions. The Young Activist Club will march again on Saturday 2 pm in Union Square.