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Ryant Taylor, a senior studying English, shows his support of the Hands up Walk out protest with his bandana. 

OU students to protest Eric Garner grand jury decision

#HandsUpWalkOut is organizing a rally Friday as show of solidarity with Eric Garner, an unarmed black man whose death was caused by a New York City police officer’s chokehold.

Potentially hundreds of Ohio University students will stand in solidarity Friday with an unarmed black man from New York City — and against the white police officer whose chokehold on the man led to his death.

Following a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who killed Eric Garner, 43, a group of students are encouraging their peers to rally at the Athens County Courthouse at 5 p.m., Friday with posters that read “I Can’t Breathe” — a nod to the words Garner gasped out several times whilst being restrained by police.

The whole ordeal between Garner and officer Daniel Pantaleo, 29, as well as other police, was caught on video.

The OU offshoot of #HandsUpWalkOut asked more than 600 people to create the signs and carry them to classes and around campus in addition to the rally. As of press time, about 150 people had registered as going to the event on Facebook.

The event post also encourages students to create dialogue with professors and peers about the sign and “black murders” in general.

“It’s really just a call for solidarity,” said Ryant Taylor, a senior studying creative writing who is helping organize the event. “We’re just trying to connect each other on a very human level.”

The protests will culminate in a group demonstration near the Athens County Courthouse at roughly 5 p.m. on Friday. The protest will include a moment of silence and time for people to express their feelings about the recent “lack of indictments,” said Taylor, who is also the LGBTQA affairs commissioner for Student Senate.

The event organizers encourage participants to take photos of themselves with their signs and “blast” them on social media, using the hashtags #ericgarner, #icantbreathe and #ohiouniversity.

Bayyinah Jeffries, an African American studies professor at OU, said she was upset but “not surprised by the grand jury decision” to not indict the police officer in the Garner case.

The demonstration comes amid tense race relations in the U.S., particluarly regarding police use of force against minorities.

On a federal level at least, there is seemingly some effort to curb tensions and build stronger relations between police officers and their respective communities.

Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Department of Justice is launching a civil rights investigation into the events related to Garner’s death. And on Thursday, Holder announced the department found a “pattern and practice of using excessive force” within the Cleveland Police Department — where an officer recently shot and killed a 12-year-old black boy who had a toy gun in a park.

#HandsUpWalkOut became a national movement in the wake of the social unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the killing of unarmed teenager Mike Brown. A grand jury in that state decided last month not to indict the police officer who shot Brown.

An OU spin-off of #HandsUpWalkOut formed shortly after. Taylor said the group does not recognize any kind of internal leadership and is not a formal organization, but is simply a “group of organizers” who support recent demonstrations on OU’s campus. 


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