While St. Cloud State University students, faculty and staff members each began their own regular, on-foot commute through Atwood Memorial Center, a small group of St. Cloud State students had a different plan in mind. When the clock struck noon this past Thursday, a group of St. Cloud State University students began their demonstration, led by local student activists.
Britton Mikkelsen was one of the student activists at the forefront of this demonstration. Mikkelsen, alongside other students feel that inequality among African Americans has become more and more apparent on the campus of St. Cloud State. However, this demonstration specifically pertained to the disparity in police brutality among African American males.
The significance of when the demonstration took place, as well as the duration of the demonstration is critical to the message that the students were sending. Tamir Rice, a young boy from Cleveland was shot by police in November of 2014. Laquan Mcdonald, a 17-year-old boy was shot and killed by Chicago police in October of 2014. Both of these boys were young, African Americans.
“We [demonstrated] at 12, because Tamir Rice was 12-years-old when he was killed. We [demonstrated] for 16 minutes because Laquan Mcdonald was shot 16 times, while walking away,” said Luna G. Gebriel, a junior at St. Cloud State as well as a student and community organizer.
As student protesters and organizers began to lay down on the floor of the Atwood Mall with signs, an influx of traffic began to pick up speed. Mikkelsen was the only one standing as she spoke about the meaning of the demonstration, all while including chants that all of the protesters engaged in. As the 16 minutes came to a close, the group made its way through Atwood, chanting, “Black Lives Matter here.” Despite the demonstrating, the majority of people in Atwood carried on the “business as usual” mindset.
Gebriel and Mikkelsen both claimed that, specifically white males, stepped on protesters and made insulting remarks to protesters, including one man that allegedly told Mikkelsen to “let the bodies hit the floor.”
“There is no reason why I attend St. Cloud State, pay tuition like everybody else and it still doesn’t feel like I’m welcome,” said Gebriel.
Feeling unwelcome has become an element of the spark that is leading students to hold these demonstrations, however, students also know that it takes more than demonstrating to push the needle further.
“A lot of what we do behind the scenes doesn’t get noticed because we are not shutting down a whole area and pissing everyone off. We are educating ourselves, our peers, promoting events within the cultural groups and some of the more progressive groups trying to change the narrative on campus,” said Mikkelsen. “Maybe, as a white student, I’m never going to feel racism, but I can still understand it, and I can still try and get rid of it. But the narrative [on SCSU’s campus] is ‘it’s not happening to me so it doesn’t matter.’”