New Years Day, a time usually passed in celebration and family reunion, was instead spent by many at the Westfield Wheaton Mall protesting the recent cases of law enforcement brutality with a staged die-in.
The demonstration drew nearly 100 people and concluded with the arrest of activist Erika Totten, who was charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct. According to Marsha Coleman Adebyo, a coordinator for Hands Up Coalition D.C, she was arrested without Miranda rights.
“It’s definitely a prevalent topic and I don’t think we’re getting enough information as to how important it is and I feel like the judicial system has cooled down in some sense when dealing with these things, which is not okay,” Montgomery Blair High School student Maia Pramuk said.
The recent deaths of many black men in high profile cases has put attention on the topic of police brutality, particularly towards minorities. According to ProPublica, an investigative, non-profit news agency, young black males have a risk of being shot dead by police 21 times greater than their white counterparts. This statistic echoes the lives of many black-Americans who are warned of the realities they face from law enforcement by their families, friends and general life experiences.
Clarissa Libertelli, a student at Rockville High School, attended the protest. “I thought this was a well-organized protest for an issue that [deserves] a lot more attention than it is receiving and should not be forgotten any time soon,” Libertelli said.
The demonstration included a die-in, where protesters laid on the floor in silence for 45 minutes, as well as speeches from event organizers asking mall-goers to “stand in solidarity with their message” and to take into account that 2015 will be a “year of resistance” to the deadly shootings by law enforcement, as their message has not expired with the end of 2014.
“You can only be silent for long if it doesn’t affect [anyone]. It will affect someone that you know, so help your fellow brothers or sisters out,” Melate Berhanu, a graduate of Montgomery Blair High School said.
The protest, planned two days before the event, was organized by college and high school students Elsa Lakew and Mariam Jiffar, respectively.
Article and photo by the MoCo Student staff writer Lillian Andemicael of Rockville High School