Students at Syracuse University rallied against police brutality on November 30 in light of the recent violence used against student activists at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, CUNY schools, and Indiana University.
"This is a call out to all Syracuse University students, faculty and staff to come out and stand against this treatment of students," read the event's mission statement on Facebook "and to bring attention to the growing problem of police brutality on campuses and communities (including Syracuse) across the country.” In response, about 100 demonstrators filled the steps of Hendricks Chapel in the center of the campus’ quad at 12:30 in the afternoon.
Melissa Welshans, a PhD candidate in the English department at Syracuse, was one of the rally’s key organizers. She described her experience watching the Youtube video of the pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis, posted by a former SU student who now attends the California state university, as the reason behind her interest in acting.
“I know someone there who’s working really hard to get a good education and I don’t want any students to have to deal with that kind of violence,” Welshans explained in a phone interview. “As an instructor I can’t imagine watching police do that to my students. It’s my natural instinct to think about how to keep my students safe in and outside of the classroom.”
Adrienne Garcia is another graduate student at Syracuse who helped organize Wednesday’s rally. In addition to coordinating logistics of the protest, Garcia also penned a powerful letter to the editor that was published in Wednesday’s Daily Orange about an article that originally ran in the independent student paper about SU’s close relationship with JPMorgan Chase.
Risa C'DeBaca, a senior Women’s and Gender Studies major, was the third main organizer of the event. C’DeBaca is very active with Occupy Syracuse which has maintained a presence in Perseverance Park on South Salina Street since September 30.
Organizers are hoping that Wednesday’s rally is only a starting point for SU students to continue their activism and open up an important dialogue about issues of police brutality and civil rights. There are plans to hold more formal teach-ins in the spring semester.
“This issue will not go away, and it will not be fixed with the rally,” Garcia said. “But we can definitely start a dialogue.”