Ferguson Movement Comes to Fayetteville

Ferguson Movement Comes to Fayetteville
Photo Courtesy of Tina Gaston Northwest Arkansas residents take a stand in solidarity for those involved in the events of Ferguson, Mo.

Photo Courtesy of Tina Gaston
Northwest Arkansas residents take a stand in solidarity for those involved in the events of Ferguson, Mo.

Early Saturday morning, Oct. 25, as hog fans began pouring onto campus from every part of the state, something decidedly different was taking place just a short walk from the stadium. On the Old Main Lawns at the corner of Arkansas Avenue, a large group gathered to march in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, Mo., holding the signs that have become familiar at this point; “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!,” “Black Lives Matter, Muslim Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, I’m A Person Too.” It’s sad that it’s these words that have become so familiar, yet this is where we sit.

During the summer in Ferguson, Mo., a suburb outside St. Louis, a young African-American man named Mike Brown was shot six times by officer Darren Wilson. Witnesses have come forward, some releasing cell phone video footage from right after the shooting took place, where they can be heard shouting “He had his hands up!” and “Why’d you kill him?” While the recent results of multiple autopsies has thrown everything into disarray, with the family’s autopsy pointing to and corroborating the witness accounts while the police autopsy claims that Mike Brown was killed in a struggle.

I need to take a minute here to address this development. It doesn’t matter, guys. It doesn’t matter if Mike Brown was, in Bill Maher’s heinous words (what happened to that guy) ‘acting like a thug’ or if he had his hands up, the result is the same: He is no longer in this world. He is dead. He was a kid, a teenager, subject to all the dumb-ass tendencies teenagers have, and he’s dead. Officers have multiple tools at their disposal, many of which can take down and subdue a suspect without doing permanent damage, and it was a gun that was chosen and used. This is not okay. No one should fear the people that make a promise to ‘protect and serve.’ That is their motto, and that’s what we need to expect them to live up to.

The local social media movement, #HandsUpNWA, was founded by locals Tina Gaston and Jared Carter, both of whom spoke at the march on Saturday, as well as alderman Sarah Marsh, Justine Turnage of the NWA Center For Equality, Capt. Jamie Fields of the Fayetteville Police Department, D’andre Jones of the NWA Democratic Black Caucus, and Dr. Charlene Johnson-Carter of the University of Arkansas.

While each person’s way of getting there was a little different, the overall message was resoundingly the same; we have to be one community, living together in peace and solidarity. Marsh took a moment, in light of this, to remind the crowd of the special election Dec. 9, and to vote “No” to say yes to the Civil Rights Ordinance in Fayetteville.

“HandsUpNWA was created in conjunction with various other Hands Up movements across the country to offer support and stand in solidarity with Ferguson,” Gaston said. “Now specifically for NWA, our idea was to try and bridge the gap between NWA residents and local police departments. We felt there had been a disconnect over the years and especially with the (anti-discrimination ordinance) being passed in Fayetteville, we felt the atmosphere was ripe for this type of a partnership. It opens up the lines of communication between the community and our law enforcement and if we can keep communication open and figure out what we need from each other, it makes things safer and better for all.”

This is just the latest in protests that have been taking place around the clock and across the country since the day Mike Brown died. While there have been recent developments that have thrown things into various shades of grey, I have to urge all of you to remember the very simple truth in all of this: a young man is dead, and the person who killed him made a promise when he put on that uniform, to protect, to serve, and to uphold the laws of this country. To me, that does not include deadly force.

I hope Fayetteville never sees anything like Ferguson has. I truly hope we remain the bastion of tolerance and love that we seem to be, and that I know many of our citizens see us as. For now, Ferguson can have some of that love, we’ve got plenty to spare. In love and in solidarity, Ferguson, our hands are up too.

Categories: Legacy Archive