On December 10, 2014, members of Montclair State University participated in a grassroots statewide initiative called “#NJShutItDown,” where people came out to make their voices heard on the controversial and significant topics of race relations and police brutality. On the heels of the tragic and public deaths of 18-year-old Ferguson, Missouri native Michael Brown and Eric Garner, approached on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island, the national and worldwide response has certainly not been quiet. Through massive protests, social media and community outreach, many have worked to ensure their point of views is paid attention to – all in an effort to attain peace and justice.
“#NJShutItDown” consisted of commanding marches, thunderous chants and captivating “die-ins,” taking place at colleges and universities across the state, including Rutgers New Brunswick, Rutgers Newark, William Paterson University, Kean University, among others. The intent was to shut down a public places and social media, in order to bring attention to the matter at hand. At Montclair State University, students participated in a march, beginning at the New Jersey Transit Deck/Sinatra Residence Hall to University Hall.
Shouting phrases such as “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” and signs with statements including “Black Lives Matter,” students pushed through the snow and cold temperatures, determined to make an impact. Organizations present at the protest included Montclair State University’s Organization of Students for African Unity (OSAU), Lady’s First and the Montclair State Chapter of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
At University Hall, students presented a “die-in” where people laid down to resemble the deaths of Brown and Garner. The “die-in” lasted 11 minutes: 7 minutes to reflect the length of the video featuring Garner being approached by authorities and put in a chokehold and 4 minutes to represent the 4 hours that Brown’s body remained in the street. Also featured was a reading of black lives lost that made national headlines over the years.
Henzly Meghie, a junior at Montclair State University and member of OSAU, talks about the significance of their actions. “The purpose of this event was to help promote awareness on the nationwide police brutality situation and to make change. Groups choose a place of high traffic whether the street or a building and had people lying on the floor to potentially shut down any further activity to make people aware.”
Meghie notes that the efforts made were definitely a success. “Some people who didn’t even know at first about what was going on ending up participating in the die-in. People were tweeting, honking in support and joining in after class. I believe it certainly was a success.”
For more information on these initiatives, use the hashtag #NJShutItDown on Twitter & Instagram.
Montclair State | New Jersey