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Why do you march? Young protesters explain what drives them – Part 2

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    We wondered about the voices behind the young faces of these rolling protests and what these conscientious objectors hope to accomplish.

    So we invited three of them to join us.

    Tory Russell is the founder of a group called Hands Up United. He is in New York City tonight. Molly Greider is a paralegal who became an activist in response to Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri. She's in Saint Louis. And Jessica Pierce is a co-founder of a group called the Black Youth Project. She is in San Francisco.

    Jessica Pierce, why do you march?

    JESSICA PIERCE, Black Youth Project 100: Hi. How are you doing?

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Why do you march?

  • JESSICA PIERCE:

    I march because this is literally our lives at stake right now. It is literally our blood that's being shed on these streets. Every 28 hours, there's a black person that's killed by a police force in this country.

    There are more people getting shot and killed on the streets here than in any line of defense in any other country. So, really, what I march for is my life and the right to live it.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Molly Greider, is this about race or is this about something broader than that?

  • MOLLY GREIDER, PROTESTER:

    I think, first and foremost, it's about race.

    I think, beyond that, there are broader issues, but I think that the issue at the forefront is certainly race.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, why do you march?

  • MOLLY GREIDER:

    Because I feel morally obligated to. The fact that I'm not black doesn't mean that I should sit at home and not participate.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Tory Russell, same question to you. Why do you march?

  • TORY RUSSELL, Co-Founder, Hands Up United:

    I march to be free. I have a 5-year-old Sony. I have people in the community that wants to be free. We just think about the educational system, the judicial system, how the police are killing us. We're just marching really for systemic change.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    OK. Let's break that apart a little bit, Jessica Pierce, this idea of marching for change.

    Everyone wants change, right? That always seems to be the rallying cry, but to change what, exactly?

  • JESSICA PIERCE:

    We're trying to change the policies in this country. We're also trying to change the minds of a lot of people in this country.

    When we look at the case of Tamir Rice, for example, he was shot a second-and-a-half after police arrived on scene. It is literally at the point in this country where black people are seen as criminals, we are seen as having less rights than even a rabid dog. You know, police treat, you know, rabid dogs with more respect than they treat black people at this point.

    So, I mean, really, we're trying to change policies. We're trying to change the oversight that we see of police forces in this country. There should be community review boards that actually have real power. We're trying to make sure that, even though, in the case of Eric Garner, where there was video footage, there isn't always video footage, so we do have to make sure there are body cameras.

    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.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Molly Greider, how much of this is about moral suasion and how much of this is about legal suasion, that is, changing minds vs. changing the law?

  • MOLLY GREIDER:

    I think it's about both.

    I think that certainly minds and hearts need to be changed. I think that particularly the minds and hearts of many white people in the country need to be changed, but, beyond that, laws certainly have to be changed and policing policies need to be changed.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, let me ask you this, Molly. I want to stick with you for a second, because a lot of people watching this right now and listening to the three of you are thinking, I don't understand this. I don't understand why people are lying down in the streets. I don't understand what they think they're accomplishing.

    What do you say to them?

  • MOLLY GREIDER:

    You know, a big part of that is disrupting business as usual.

    Business as usual gets people killed. Business as usual got Michael Brown shot. Business as usual got Tamir Rice shot. Business as usual got Rekia Boyd killed. That's not acceptable to us. And so, as a form of protests, as a form of civil disobedience, people do things like die-ins, block highways, have sit-ins at different places just to disrupt the normal flow of people's daily lives.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Tory Russell, you're in New York tonight, where the Occupy New York, Occupy movement got its roots there down on Wall Street. And yet, a couple of years later, that kind of fizzled. It didn't have leaders, people who were stepping out saying, I'm now in charge.

    And a lot of people had diverse goals. So, how do you know this doesn't turn into that?

  • TORY RUSSELL:

    We coordinate with most of the people around the country.

    What you're seeing is a response from Ferguson in October and FergusonAction.com. We sit on conference calls. We meet face to face. Before I got to New York, I was in Cleveland at Tamir Rice's funeral meeting with organizers in Cleveland, and some came down from Pittsburgh.

    So this is a very coordinated, organized movement. We have the same demands and the same goals.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, let me ask you and then Jessica Pierce whether this is now the new face of the civil rights movement. We think back 50 years. We have spent a lot of time talking about anniversaries, talking about leaders who walked across bridges and led freedom school buses down into the South. Is this — but now you're doing it by technology?

  • JESSICA PIERCE:

    We're doing it by technology, but we're also doing all the tried-and-true methods as well.

    I think what is happening right now is, people are seeing people doing the die-ins in the streets and protesting in the streets, but we were also making sure that people turned out in the past election. We have also been advocating for our policy agenda to keep us safe. We're also making sure that we're holding elected officials accountable on the local level.

    We're doing decentralized organizing. We're organizing in New Orleans, and in the Bay Area, and in San Francisco and in New York and D.C., and we're doing all of those organizing methods and we're also making sure that our revolution is being broadcast on social media.

    So, it's both. We're inside the beltway and we're outside the beltway. We're on the computers and we're also in the streets.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Molly Greider, Jessica Pierce has worked a lot — has worked for the NAACP, has worked for traditional organizations. Have you been involved in this kind of movement before or is this brand-new for you?

  • MOLLY GREIDER:

    It's new for me. I have not been involved with the NAACP or with other civil rights organizations before, except a little bit with work.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So why this?

  • MOLLY GREIDER:

    You know, when Trayvon Martin was killed, I went to marches in Saint Louis for him. But I think that the fact that Michael Brown was killed and then Kajieme Powell and Vonderrit Myers in Saint Louis really made me feel compelled to be a part of this for the longer term.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Tory Russell, let me ask you the same question. How long have you been involved and what — and did this worry you before these particular incidents all cropped up?

  • TORY RUSSELL:

    Most definitely.

    I participated in marches and protests for Cary Ball, a young man who was killed by Saint Louis City police, as well as Trayvon Martin. I also follow in the footsteps of my elder brother, Shayi (ph), who has been protesting in Saint Louis for 37 years.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, let me ask you this. Does this feel different to you?

  • TORY RUSSELL:

    Yes.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    These protests we're seeing, these coast-to-coast rolling die-ins and roadblocks, does this feel like a different stage?

  • TORY RUSSELL:

    Yes, it's younger, it's fresher.

    And I think there that we're more connected than most people think. I don't — this is not the civil rights movement. You can tell by how I have got a hat on, my T-shirt and how I rock my shoes this is not the civil rights movement. This is the oppressed people's movement.

    So, when you see us, you're going to some gay folk, you're going to some queer folk, you're going to some poor black folk, you're going to some brown folk, you're going to some white people. And we're all out here for the same reasons.

    We want to be free. We believe that we have the right over laws. I think the questions that we keep getting is to what's legal. We need to be talking about what's right. And we're not heading that way. So, we need to go out in the streets and block some of that and make this system ungovernable and disruptive, until we get our own self-determination and our own self-liberation.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Jessica Pierce, what do you think should be next and is it something that needs to be organized in a former structure?

  • JESSICA PIERCE:

    I do think it has to be organized on some level, because it's not just about building this movement. It's really about sustaining this movement.

    It's really about turning this moment into a movement, which I think is what we're focused on, which is why we had actions around the Darren Wilson case, verdict that came out. And we, at the end of those actions, had teach-ins.

    And so we are continuing to maintain the structure, as Black Youth Project 100, that allows people to come in and join chapters, that allows people to determine what they think are the solutions, that allows people to get trained on these different tactics in how to prolong this movement, that also really makes sure that on the local level we're actually engaging these targets on an ongoing basis, because I think the point that people are missing right now is, yes, this is hitting everyone right now, because you're being forced to have to deal with this.

    It's on your news every day. It's at your dinner tables and it's on your streets and it's stopping you from getting home and it's stopping you from getting to work, but what people need to know is that even when people leave the streets is that we still are going to be organizing, and we're going to be doing it in every way possible.

    And that's how we sustain the movement. It is by organizing, by mobilizing, by building relationships, by interfacing with our local elected officials. I was in D.C. last week testifying at a hearing for public safety with our new mayor-elect there to make sure that people know whatever it is, we are going to do it, and more.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Jessica Pierce, Molly Greider, Tory Russell, thank you all.

  • JESSICA PIERCE:

    Thank you.

  • MOLLY GREIDER:

    Thank you.

  • TORY RUSSELL:

    Free Mumia.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And we want to hear from you. Have you been a part of the recent protests in your city? Tell us why by posting a video on Instagram, Vine, or YouTube, and tagging it to "NewsHour." Find directions on our home page, PBS.org/NewsHour.

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