At 3 PM, a huge number of students, faculty, staff, administrators, and Middletown community members (estimates range from a few to several hundred) gathered in the Exley Lobby ready to march in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Although most folks dissipated at about 4 PM after the stream of protestors made it’s way back to main campus, as of 4:45 PM there are still students marching on the North End of Main Street and police are present. Prior to the march, protestors were reminded that a Black life is taken every 28 hours by law enforcement or state-backed vigilantes; this march was an attempt to disrupt the Middletown economy in analogous fashion to the constant disruption of Black lives. In addition, it was emphasized that this was a peaceful protest.
From there, protestors walked from Exley past Olin, chanting things like “Black Lives Matter,” “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” down to College Row where they paused outside of North College and had a moment of silence for 4.5 minutes, representing the 4 1/2 hours that Mike Brown’s body was left in the street in Ferguson. The march continued past the Usdan Center, through the CFA, and past the Center for African American Studies, where protestors walked onto Washington Street—or Route 66, a main CT thoroughfare. At the corner of Washington and Main Street, white allies formed a ring around primarily Students of Color who had a “Die In” for eleven minutes, signifying the eleven times that Eric Garner said, “I can’t breathe.”
Although an action like this comes with the intent to obstruct traffic, it was curious that the police chose to block off the intersection prior to the arrival of the protestors. One could view it as an attempt to curtail traffic disruptions, a desire to diminish injuries, or even a sign of solidarity. Students did receive an email from the Dean of Students at 1:45 PM reminding them that peaceful protests are legal, but obstructing traffic is not, and the Middletown police tweeted:
The Middletown Police Department understands your right to demonstrate. Please keep the demonstration peaceful…. http://t.co/99oT3KXkaf
— Middletown Police (@CTMiddletownPD) December 8, 2014
Overall, I found the march to be incredibly powerful and moving. It was invigorating to see so many of my peers, professors, and fellow Middletown residents march today. Middletown is Ferguson. Ferguson is Middletown.
[Update 7:30 pm] The Middletown Police department wrote a press release in which they said they received a tip about the march this morning and that the “die-in” would occur during rush hour. They then determined that “the best course of action was to shut down the intersection to avoid any accidents, we also advised the Board of Education and EMS to use alternate routes during the march.”
The press release also estimates that approximately 300 students participated in the march, while the Middletown Press estimates “nearly 1,000.” Our own approximation is closer to the latter, possibly around 600-700 people (this includes not just students, but also administrators, faculty, Middletown community members, and other Wesleyan employees).
An excerpt from the release describes the march:
The march was peaceful and respectful. Some students thanked us for keeping them safe during the march. The most anyone did in a negative way was to shake a sign near the officers.
The students cleared the intersection after occupying it for approximately eleven minutes. We then followed the students back to Wesleyan property to ensure their safety. Several minutes later about half of the students started marching back toward Main Street and Washington Street. The students were advised that they could not occupy the intersection again. The students were allowed to march on the sidewalk and to use the crosswalk. We assisted them in the crosswalk. The students were cooperative. There were no injuries reported during the incident and no one was arrested.
[Update 12/9/14, 1 pm] Rebel Empire Productions posted this powerful video of the Middletown Black Lives Matter march:
This post will be updated as more information, stories, and pictures come in. If you have any stories or photos you’d like to share, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Middletown Press]Hundreds of Wesleyan Students March, Act out Die-in in Middletown
[Middletown Press] PHOTOS: Wesleyan Students Protest Police Brutality
[Middletown Police Department] Press Release of “Die-in”