PURCHASE, N.Y. – Don’t shoot.
That was the message and hashtag used by more than 40 Manhattanville College students and staff Wednesday. They held a vigil for Michael Brown, the black teenager who was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 9. The incident sparked riots, protests and looting, which, in turn, resulted in a strong police response involving military-grade weapons and equipment.
Authorities say Brown tried to take Police Officer Darren Wilson’s gun, while protesters say the unarmed teen put his hands in the air to show he was unarmed.
Dozens of Manhattanville students and staff held their hands up, like they believe Brown did, while walking silently around the campus for the vigil Wednesday. They were led by student members of the Connie Hogarth Center for Social Action, a campus group that plans events around injustices to bring them to light.
“Our hashtag is ‘DontShoot,’ and I feel like that right there speaks volumes,” said Kena Outlar, vice president of the Connie Hogarth Center and a junior at Manhattanville. “Excessive force is just unnecessary to me and I don’t feel it should be happening at all.”
Outlar read a poem in the middle of a 40-plus person circle in the center of campus Wednesday, shedding tears along the way. Her friend and president of the Connie Hogarth Center, Vanity Robinson, also performed a spoken word piece.
“I know everyone is affected by it so we’re just trying to have a space for healing and a space for being able to express how we feel on our small campus,” she said.
Most vigil participants held signs with the #Don’tShoot and a message about race relations, including “No Justice, No Peace,” “#Black and Brown Lives Matter,” “I Am Michael Brown” and “End Police Brutality.”
Geovanna Borden, a senior at nearby Purchase College, held a sign reading, “#Don’tShoot, I Want to See the World.”
“It was a good healing process for everything that has happened,” she said, adding that Purchase will hold a similar event next week.
Outlar was happy to have people from outside of Manhattanville and said the Connie Hogarth Center plans to participate in the Purchase vigil, too.
“If we can touch other communities than we can touch the world,” Outlar said.