BY APRILL EMIG Staff Reporter
On Friday at 11:50 a.m. UMD students held a “die-in” protest. The event - also referred to as a lie-in - was held to “show support and solidarity to Ferguson, Eric Garner, and Black Lives Matter,” according to their Facebook page.
At 11:45, sophomores Kati Thompson and Laura Schneider carried a green sign that read “WHITE SILENCE = WHITE CONSENT.” Together they lead a group of 27 other students and one faculty member from the Multicultural Center, down the stairs and through the hall near the Kirby Student Center Lounge.
When they reached the destination near the vending machines, Thompson shouted “hands up” and the other students yelled back “don’t shoot!”
30 bodies fell to the floor.
The event would last a total of ten minutes and the time was strategically chosen due to the high amount of foot traffic that occurs around noon.
Though most protesters met in the Multicultural Center, senior Jacob Royce joined when the protest was nearly over. He brought the total body count to 31.
“I’ve been seeing the protests in New York and Chicago and Minneapolis, and I was wondering when something would happen in Duluth,” Royce said. “I’m so glad this is finally happening at UMD.” The protest coincided with his last day of school.
However, most students were not nearly as eager to join.
Protesters covered the width of the hallway, leaving open a space of two feet at the narrowest part. Passersby were visibly annoyed with the scene, particularly because it meant having to funnel through and walk over bodies.
A few students on wheelchairs were able to get around the lying bodies by using the area behind pillars near the Student Activities Center entrance.
Sarcasm was a common response from many non-protesters. “Great use of campus resources,” said one male student as he walked past.
Others rolled their eyes and some did not seem to acknowledge the scene at all. Many students and other UMD community members stood and watched or took photos with their iPhones.
But the protesters remained completely still for the duration of the protest, aside from the movement made by Royce as he joined the group.
“I’m sure some people think a small demonstration is a huge inconvenience, but I hope it gives them a taste of what people of color feel and deal with every single day,” Thompson said.
Junior Calvin Miner agreed.
“I think you need that inconvenience to force people to think about it,” Miner said.
During the protest, Miner held a large white sign that read “Justice for Eric Garner and Mike Brown.” He had brought the poster to two previous hockey games, getting a fist bump one time and a debate about the jury response another.
Miner thinks this protest shows UMD’s connection to the greater Duluth community and ultimately the rest of the country.
“I think police racism and brutality are a national issue,” Miner said, alluding to the cases of Mike Brown and Eric Garner.
Thompson said these national issues were the primary reason for holding the protest.
“We’re doing this to show our solidarity,” Thompson said.
But Thompson, Schneider, and Miner also noted that the UMD environment is not immune to issues surrounding race.
“I got sick of the environment that this campus is, and I want my friends of color to feel safe when they walk in the hallway,” Schneider said. This is her final year at UMD.
“There’s a lot of racism on campus,” Miner added.
Schneider is especially concerned about UMD’s response to race-related incidents that occur on and off campus, claiming she has heard of many racially-charged fights at parties.
“It needs to stop being swept under the rug, because that’s what the university does every time. (The university) need diversity, which they’re not getting because it’s so racially intolerant,” Schneider said.
Thompson agreed, claiming that diversity is more than a photo in a pamphlet.
‘Getting a group of students together in a room for a picture does not prove we have inclusivity on campus,” she said.
The protesters who participated are not part of an organized group on campus. However, the organizers of this protest hope to do more events like this in the near future.