‘Know your Rights’ panel and march
Ali Fernand – Features Editor
Police brutality once again became a topic important for students to learn about on campus. Student leaders of the Student Government Association and the Black Student Union organized an opportunity for students to learn what to do when they encounter law enforcement.
“As student leaders, a lot of change comes from college campuses, it’s important to know our rights and know how to speak and handle ourselves when it comes to police,” psychology major Antonio Gonzales, a senior said.
This is taking place in the aftermath of the death of Tyre Nichols, a victim of police brutality. The Know Your Rights march took place to honor his life and recognize what happened to him.
“The Know Your Rights march is in collaboration with the Black Student Union to pay tribute to Tyre Nichols who was senselessly killed by six police officers on January 7,” SGA President Kyle Thaxton said.
Nichols was stopped at a traffic light on his way home. He was then beaten by these officers then taken to the hospital in critical condition, where he later died.
To help students understand law enforcement, a panel took place after the march. This panel hosted a retired police officer and two layers. They discussed why police brutality continues to be an issue and what students should do if they encounter police.
“As a cop, was I surprised? No. As a US citizen, was I surprised? No. As a black man, was I surprised? Hell no,” retired police officer from Stratford Bobby Ramos said.
Ramos worked as a police officer for 28 years. He spoke about his time as a police officer, criticizing the practices. As a black man, he often called out many of the unfairness he saw in the treatment of black officers and citizens.
“I wonder if people have a fear of getting involved, if it’s a cultural thing,” American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Allan Hillman said.
The culture of the police was called into question. However, Ramos denies any type of culture. He attributed the brutality of the police to wanting to move up in their job rather than just a cultural influence.
“Once I became a cop, that blue culture doesn’t exist, it’s about self-preservation,” Ramos said.
The panel went to discuss other cases of police brutality. Some of these cases were decades ago, some within the last few years. The panelists were questioning how this could still be not surprising to Americans.
“I was appalled in light of the past two years of Black Lives Matter that this was still happening,” adjunct professor and lawyer Andrew Marchant-Shapiro said.
The murder of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests, calling for reform within law enforcement. With a repeat of similar events, many people are shocked to see their activism still has not been able to protect new victims.
“It was a repeat, it was like watching the same old, same old,” Ramos said.
Ramos cites other incidents of similar situations, like George Floyd and Rodney King. However, the death of Tyre Nichols has stuck out to people because the officers who beat him were also black. For the panelist, this called into question how black officers are also complicit in the racial discrimination of black people.
“I was astounded that 5 black officers would beat a black man that way, or anyone,” Hillman said.
To respond to this, Ramos described that black officers often want to fit in with their peers. To be liked in the police force, they had to be complicit in the brutality of other black people. This also would take away the guilt of white officers who participated in brutality of minorities.
“Here was the mentality, I want to be one of the boys,” Ramos said.
SGA and BSU encouraged students to continue their activism, especially on the local level. Even though it seems that federal legislation for police accountability is impossible, there is more hope on the local level.
“It’s going to happen on the state level, a lot of people want it to happen on the federal level, but we need advocates to keep pushing for change,” Thaxton said.