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December 9, 2014

Youth explain why they march in the current protests

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Groups peacefully protesting the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown are aiming for justice and systemic change in police conduct, according to young activists.

Protesters across the country are using methods of civil disobedience such as sit-ins, roadblocks, and even “die-ins” in which protesters lay down in a highly-trafficked area.  A recent die-in took place at Grand Central Station in New York City, one of the busiest transit hubs in the world.

The goal of peaceful protest is to interrupt the routine of daily life to draw attention to the issues, according to activist Molly Greider. And although many protests occur at the local level, protesters are coordinating across cities, explained Tory Russell, co-founder of Hands Up United.

Jessica Pierce, co-founder of the Black Youth Project, said her goal is to change oversight of police forces in the country with the formation of community review boards and more widespread use of body cameras on police.

“We have to make sure, at every step and every way, that there are policies that actually speak to the fact that black lives should matter in this country,” she said.

Russell referred to the protests as the “oppressed people’s movement,” saying that inequality is a reality in America for members of many different groups.

“We need to go out in the streets…and make this system ungovernable and disruptive, until we get our own self-determination and our own self-liberation,” he said.


Warm up questions
  1. What is civil disobedience? Can you think of a situation or a movement that used non-violent protests to accomplish their goals?
  2. In a recent poll by USA Today and the Pew Research center, those surveyed were asked if the New York Police Officer who killed Eric Garner should have been indicted? Look are the graph and interpret the results. Why do you think there is such a big difference between age groups? How do you think the age group over 30 and under 65 would have responded?
Critical thinking questions
  1. What reasons did the guests give when asked why they march?
  2. In what ways did the guests say that their work connects people across the country?
  3. What cause or incident would get you to march and why?
  4. How did Tory Russell differentiate the current movement from the civil rights movement of the 1960s? Do you agree with his analysis?
  5. How has social media affected the work of social activists?
  6. What do you think is more important, changing hearts and minds, or changing laws? Which must come first? Historically, which do you think has come first in other fights for civil rights?
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