As tensions rose throughout the summer over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, many people around the United States began flocking to protests and marches, including many Missouri Western students.
Freshman Ashley Nicole Green was one of the students on the front lines, protesting in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
“Black lives are being targeted, and it is their human rights being attacked,” Green said.
Hundreds of protests and marches were peaceful, with only a few becoming violent. These most notably include the Minneapolis protests, where rioters were filmed looting department stores and setting fire to the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct.
While at a protest in Kansas City, Green stated she saw police officers mace people who were standing along the sidewalk and chanting at them. This eventually caused the peaceful protest to become violent.
“Most of the violence I saw was out of defense,” Green said.
Another student that took to activism is Student Government Association Vice President Ariana Reed. Reed was essential in helping begin an organization called Silence the Hate. The organization raises awareness against racism and police brutality, and their website gives statistics and information about victims of police brutality.
Silence the Hate also provides a guide to protesting and hosted marches in Kansas City, Missouri and St. Louis, Missouri.
“There was a protest in every state,” Ariana Reed said. “It lets black people know they are not being forgotten.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 23, a grand jury indicted one of the three officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor on the charge of wanton endangerment in the first degree.
The Kentucky General Assembly defines wanton endangerment as someone who “wantonly engages in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person.”
The remaining two officers involved are not being charged in relation to her death. Additionally, the city of Louisville has agreed to pay Breonna Taylor’s family a settlement of $12 million.
The circumstances surrounding Breonna Taylor sparked controversy, originally spreading through social media, eventually reaching protests. The nationwide anticipated decision was met with outrage.
“A black woman died, and the person responsible was indicted for the shots that were missed and not the shot that took her life,” Reed said.
As of Sept. 28, people across the nation have been consistently protesting for 126 days. Many are protesting because they want to stand against a system they believe does not protect them.
“It means my life doesn't matter,” Missouri Western senior Al’Eysha Byrd said about the charge of wanton endangerment. “It’s discouraging and saddening that, as a citizen, she wasn’t protected.”
Missouri Western first addressed the protests on June 5 when the Student Government Association sent out a statement regarding the current events surrounding the Minneapolis protests.
“We, the Student Government Association of MWSU, firmly believe and affirm that Black Lives Matter,” the statement said.
As Vice President, Reed felt it was important to release the statement, especially because a number of students began expressing their outrage on social media.
“People can take silence as neglect,” Reed said. “It's important that we make sure students know we are staying aware of these topics.”
Reed stated that the need to release the statement was a unanimous decision. Alongside Reed stood Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dr. Hannah Piechowski.
“We are at a very critical time of heightened student need,” Piechowski said.“The current student population throughout the United States is advocacy focused and rights oriented.”
Unlike Missouri Western, many universities have remained completely quiet about the Black Lives Matter Movement and the recent protests and marches happening across the country.
“Silence is a part of the problem,” Byrd said. “With a matter such as this, when life is at stake in the hands of police brutality, silence is unacceptable.”
Along with the SGA, another center on campus dedicated to raising awareness for minority college students is the Center for Multicultural Education. Their goals include helping others understand the importance of diversity and committing to campus wide diversity and inclusion initiatives.
“We are talking about the current issues that are going on in our society, what the students are talking about and what they want to see as well as what kinds of programs we can offer,” CME said.
On Sept. 9, the center hosted an event called Fight the Power. This event featured a presentation given by history professor Dr. Evan Hart, relating today’s protests to those in history.
“There are black lives on our campus, so I think that speaks volumes,” Byrd said, regarding the support shown on campus by various organizations and centers.
As many students continue to express the opinions on police brutality and racial injustice in the United States, the center has planned a number of events centered around student activism.
“When upper administration shows up to these events, it shows students that they have that support,” Muhammad said.
Activism continues across the United States, especially among college students. Students at Missouri Western are far from ending their activism, seeing protesting as the only way to end police brutality.