Ann Arbor community members hold silent protest against police brutality

By Colleen Harrison, Summer News Editor
Published May 21, 2015

With their mouths covered in black tape etched with white writing, members of the organization Ann Arbor to Ferguson led a silent protest Thursday night.

The event was part of the National Day of Action, for which 10 cities across the United States protested police brutality against Black women using the hashtags #justiceforreekia, #blackwomenmatter and #sayhername.

Beginning promptly at 6:45, around 30 people stood holding signs with names of women killed by police officers. Others held signs with sayings such as “Whose daughter is next” and “Our message is simple: stop killing us.”

Rackham student Austin McCoy helped organize the protest and emceed the event. McCoy has previously helped organize similar events within the University’s History Department to raise awareness about Ferguson and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

McCoy said even though Black women are heavily involved in the movement, they are still silenced when it comes to the issue of police brutality.

“The reason why this event is so important is because the experiences of Black women have been silenced or erased,” McCoy said. “We focus on the shooting of Black men more than the killing of black women, and there’s a contradiction because a lot of women helped to start the Black lives matter movement nationally.”

While organizers passed out black tape and signs, McCoy, Ann Arbor to Ferguson member Tassy Roberts and organizer Nicole Tinson addressed the crowd.

“People ask me what I want to do with my life and nowadays the only answer seems to be: live another day,” Tinson said.

Tinson’s remarks focused on the lack of media coverage on the killings of Black women.

“Today we say her name to acknowledge the Black women and girls who have fallen in the shadow,” Tinson said.

Roberts said wearing black tape over the mouth symbolizes Black life and the systematic silence of women.

“We’ve been chanting and shouting for Black men, but why are we being silent for Black women,” Roberts said.

Roberts claimed protests for Black women who are victims of police brutality is often less aggressive while protests for Black men is more radical. She said the time for silence was over.

“I feel like we shouldn’t be silent,” Roberts said. “I want to talk, I want to chant, I want to shout, I’m a Black woman, this could be me on this posterboard.”

Though the protest was silent, Roberts said she hoped it would spark discussion in the Ann Arbor community, and encourage other preventive movements.

“I think it’ll bring it out more, that this isn’t just a problem with Black men, it’s a problem for Black women, too,” Roberts said. “I do think this will be a domino effect.”

Ann Arbor resident Amelia Diehl, who also participated in the protest, said she attended the protest after hearing about the movement on social media. She said social media plays a key role in social revolutions.

“I think social media has a really powerful role to play in a lot of movements, especially this one with the prevalence of all the hashtags with people’s names of lives that have been lost and it’s connecting people across regions, across cities, across different counties,” Diehl said. “I think it’s a great tool for people to share their own personal stories and build the stories of others.”

The protest closed with Black women reading the names of Black women who had died due to police brutality. Organizers encouraged attendees to continue working for the cause.

“It’s a movement, not a moment,” Diehl said.