Students organize demonstration against police brutalityBy Peyton Shepard | 11/12/2015 10:33am
Students protest police brutality in response to recent allegations against Tuscaloosa Police officers. CW | Peyton Shepard
Brandon Benton, a sophomore majoring in computer science and mathematics, was one of the students who assisted in organizing the event. He said the intent for the demonstration is to express dissent and demand justice from TPD, but he believes it also holds another more peaceful purpose of encouraging discussion and solutions.
“We also wish to extend a gesture of cooperation with the department in order to end the senseless violence and brutality,” Benton said.
The event was originally organized as separate protests against police brutality by Mallet Assembly, Alliance, representatives from SGA and other independent organizations, but the groups merged their efforts as a show of unity.
“We simply have common ground,” Benton said. “We have the opportunity to stand in solidarity with one another.”
SGA Vice President for Student Affairs Branden Greenberg echoed the sentiment, saying the issue is one that affects everyone on campus.
“These are students. This is something that 100 percent should be addressed,” Greenberg said. “When it hits home, you feel this sense of gravity to come towards it and make sure it people are really aware of what’s going on and make sure that nothing like this persists.”
The demonstration included multiple speakers and ended with a march to the TPD downtown precinct, with students chanting, “No justice, no peace,” and “This is what democracy looks like.” Greenberg said the goal was to make sure the demonstration stayed civil, peaceful and, above all, informative.
“My big thing is, we should all be able to take this as a learning experience,” Greenberg said. “... If we can really reach out to TPD and UAPD even from the student perspective, we can make sure we have a good basis to grow off of this.”
Hunter said he was asked by Greenberg to serve as a speaker at the event, and he hopes events such as the demonstration will enable discourse on police brutality.
“Incidents like these have been occurring for years now across the country,” Hunter said. “We really just want to see students become educated and call for a change.”
Capt. Heath Clark, a TPD officer, was present at the start of the event to communicate with event organizers as a means of promoting harmonious discourse.
“Anytime we have any kind of gathering like this, we know they want to send a certain message,” Clark said. “Sometimes there are people who will come from outside who will cause problems, and we know that’s not the representation that they want to come out of this ... It just makes things work out a lot better.”
All of the organizers stressed that the event is a means of communicating with TPD, which SGA Senator Sean Ross said is important to addressing the issue in general.
“We don’t want to seem as though we’re anti-police, but we are anti-brutality of any kind,” Ross said. “It’s important to engage with civic leaders, engage with your community. Sure, we may just go to school here, but we are absolutely part of the community 365 days a year. This will show our community leaders that we are involved, we are watching.”