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Saturday, May 08, 2021

Brittany King fiddled with the red bandana around her head anxiously waiting for an announcement out of Ferguson, Missouri.

King and about 25 members of UF Dream Defenders gathered at UF Civic Media Center on Monday night to wait for the grand jury decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed the unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August.

As the verdict of no indictment was read, some shook their heads in disbelief while others yelled at the screen in anger calling the evidence falsified.

In the last minutes of the verdict, the room went unnaturally silent. Some dropped their heads in defeat while others left the center for a smoke.

Before the verdict reached an ending, King walked out of the center. King, a 25-year-old Santa Fe College public relations junior couldn’t stand to hear more.

“We won’t be silent,” she said.

Organizers around Gainesville prepared to take a stand against oppression Monday, no matter the outcome later that night.

“We want people to know we’re here, and we have no right to be shot in the street like an animal,” she said.

Azaari Mason, 19, was at a loss for words after the decision. The UF political science junior turned his back from the center and watched the cars drive by on Main Street in silence.

“Mike Brown could have been me,” he said with waterd eyes. “Could have been a brother.”

As five Dream Defenders members smoked outside, a police car pulled into the driveway of the fire station. 

An officer stood talking with two firefighters.  The five smokers rolled their eyes and threw up their hands in frustration.

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“Are they really here to monitor us?”  King said.

Today at 6 p.m. members of the International People’s Uhuru Movement, a worldwide organization that combats black oppression, will be joined by local groups at a demonstration in front of the Alachua County Courthouse at 220 S. Main St.

The groups will stand in solidarity with victims of police violence like Brown and raise awareness of police misconduct, said Jesse Nevel, national chair of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement.  

Nevel said no matter the decision, the issues at play in Wilson’s shooting of the unarmed Brown on Aug. 9 happen around the country. 

“This is not just confined to Ferguson,” he said. “You can’t sit on the fence. You have to take a stand.” 

Similar rallies are expected in St. Petersburg, Houston, San Diego and London. 

UF organization Students for a Democratic Society will also be participating to raise awareness on the flaws in the U.S. court system, said Sky Button, a member and a UF wildlife ecology and conservation freshman.

“The decision of this case is basically telling us how essentially the courts are responding to systemic oppression of marginalized groups,” Button, 18, said. 

The groups will gather and hold signs, including UF’s Dream Defenders and Students for Justice in Palestine. More than 100 people are expected to attend. 

Nevel said the Wilson case has brought the issue of black targeting by police to people’s TV screens and newspaper headlines. 

“Ferguson has come to symbolize that reality for a lot of people,” Nevel said. “But it didn’t start with Mike Brown, and it doesn’t end with him.” 

[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 11/25/2014]

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