More than 100 N.C. Central University law students and community members dressed in black gathered for a photo Monday, raising their hands in unity for Michael Brown, the unarmed black teen shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.
Brown, who was 18, was buried Monday.
The Aug. 9 shooting has been followed by weeks of protests and violent clashes between St. Louis County police and protesters.
The student-led rally on Monday included speakers encouraging students to take a stand. Among those speakers was Rev. William Barber, who said he would be traveling to Ferguson Tuesday.
“This is not about protesters that threw something,” Barber said. “It’s about an 18-year-old boy – boy,” he emphasized, “being shot unarmed. What we’re worried about is fairness because there are too many instances we’ve seen where there were unarmed black men being shot.”
“The cops are out of control,” he added.
Barber said people of all races need to come together for any policies to change.
NCCU law professor Irving Joyner told the crowd that a conversation needs to be started in order to alleviate police shootings.
“If we don’t talk it through, then we will fail Michael Brown and others,” he said. “The law as it presently is in place protects police officers.”
Joyner encouraged those in the crowd to get out into the community and spread the news to others that the only solution is to get out and vote.
“We can’t change it by having rallies and memorial services,” he said. “We can’t change it by getting mad and burning down buildings, breaking into stores and stealing a six-pack of 40s.”
“We change this by gaining power.”
He explained that if the 69 percent of people in Ferguson who are black got out to vote and voted for the right people, then the elected officials would reflect how they felt.
“If you are not doing at least that, then you are a traitor to yourself and your people,” Joyner said.
After the speeches, Barber and NCCU Chancellor Debra Saunders-White joined in the photo. Everyone raised their hands and bowed their heads for a moment of silence.
Others historically back colleges and universities, including Howard University, have also taken photos of their hands raised, and holding up signs saying “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
Starr Battle, a third-year law student who organized the rally, said Howard’s photo inspired NCCU students to take their own.
“Sitting on the sidelines doesn’t change anything,” Battle said. “Every month we have another incident where one of our brothers has died in the community. We need to move to a point of action. That is one thing that happened in the 1960s. They moved together to make sure a change occurred.”
“We have to get back to that,” she continued. “Because, if we don’t, it will just revert back to where we were before 1960.”
In Durham, police have also come under fire for officer-involved shootings and racial disparities in traffic stops, searches and arrests. Police acknowledge the disparities but say they don’t reflect racial profiling.
Last fall, Mayor Bill Bell told the city’s Human Relations Commission to investigate Durham police practices. The commission held public hearings over six months and submitted a report in May that concluded “racial bias and profiling (are) present in the Durham Police Department practices.”