Montclair High School Students Show Solidarity with Ferguson


photo 3The chill and drizzle didn’t dampen organizers’ plans on Tuesday afternoon at Montclair High School. A large banner overlooking the amphitheater read MHS in SOLIDARITY, which referenced the purpose of the student gathering: to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Ferguson, MO and to express a firm stance against police brutality and racial profiling.

Despite the dreary day, as soon as the bell rang signaling the end of the day, well over a hundred students came to the amphitheater to stand together and support their opinions with action. A second banner was brought out that read Black Lives Matter, one of the mantras of the current national wave of demonstrations in response to recent deaths involving unarmed Black youth and police officers.

Student leaders spoke to the gathering about the purpose of their presence and to share the iconic social change quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Then they asked students to link arms for four-and-a-half minutes of silence, honoring the four-and-a-half hours Michael Brown’s body was lying in the street after his death. Just before beginning the silence, another organizer invited the Black male students present to put their hands up. It was a powerful moment.


MHS Demonstration

Lillian Emenogu, a Montclair High School student and one of the central organizers or the event, said that they hope to continue demonstrations and awareness-raising activities so that the momentum won’t be lost. “It’s not a one day issue,” she said. “We can’t wait for another situation to get people interested again.”

Emily Pollack, another organizer, echoed that desire, “I hope people at MHS continue to come together to educate, inspire, and talk about racial issues that happen in our school and community.” In reference to her motivation in organizing the event, Ms. Pollack continued that she has seen statistics that compare racial injustice in the USA to the days of Apartheid in South Africa. “People think the millenials are all about social change and justice,” she said, “but the statistics comparing us to Apartheid make me wonder what people will think of our generation in 50 years.”

The students who planned the event prepared scores of papers strung on yarn which shared some of those statistics and facts about human prejudice and racial disparities in arrests and incarceration. When the yarn and papers became tangled prior to the event, one student shrugged with determination and commented that it was like untangling the racial problems of America. With the commitment and creativity we saw in Montclair on Tuesday, the untangling can continue in good company and with committed intentions.


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  1. The death of Michael Brown was so sad and so unnecessary. I was shocked when the military came out in response to the protests, then I thought it was a perfect reflection of how our country reacts to supposed danger from minorities. I am proud of these students and proud they come from my community.

  2. Really? This is disturbingly disingenuous. I wonder why there’s so much emphasis on solidarity with a thug who attacked an officer?

  3. I agree completely – so unnecessary. Hopefully one of the lessons here is that assaulting a police officer – whether you are black, white, brown, yellow, etc. – is a dangerous action. I think we would agree that police officers have the right to return home safely to their families each night, right?

  4. “Disturbingly disingenuous” is how I would describe someone who critiques an expression like this while hiding behind a fake name on a local blog….

  5. I think we would agree that we all have the right to return home safely to our families each night, right?

  6. No, I wouldn’t agree with that. If you jeopardize the safety of somebody else through an violent act (which you instigate), you have forfeited that right.

  7. The cops in the Michael Garner case just got off. Pray tell, what was Garner’s terrible crime that was deserving of execution? Selling cigarettes on the street?

  8. So would grabbing a man from behind and killing him with a choke hold count as for-fitting the right to get home safe to your loved ones that night ?

  9. Mike 91,

    The testimony given to the grand jury is public record so I hesitate to cite any single part of it. Probably better to read the testimonies in full to get the most informed view of the incident. But with that said, I think Witness #10 might give you a good starting point in seeking the answer to your question.

    I just see Mr. Brown inside the police officer’s window. It appeared as [though] some sort of confrontation was taking place…. [T]hat took place for seconds, I’m not sure how long…. And one shot, the first shot was let loose and after the first shot, Mike Brown came out of the window and took off running. So my initial thought was that wow, did I just witness this young guy kill a police officer.

    Half of his body, his feet was still planted on the ground, his upper body was inside the window in a leaning motion inside the window, his upper body was inside.

    Witness 10 then explained that, after the firing of a shot, Michael Brown and his friend took off down Canfield Drive. Officer Wilson remained in his car briefly, and then pursued with his gun drawn — but not firing at Brown. Eventually Brown stopped.

    He [Mike Brown] stopped. He did turn, he did some sort of body gesture, I’m not sure what it was, but I know it was a body gesture. And I could say for sure he never put his hands up after he did his body gesture, he ran towards the officer full charge. The officer fired several shots at him and to give an estimate, I would say roughly around five to six shots was fired at Mike Brown. Mike Brown was still coming towards the office and at this point I’m thinking, wow, is this officer missing Mike Brown at this close of a range. Mike Brown continuously came forward in the charging motion and at some point, at one point he started to slow down and he came to a stop. And when he stopped, that’s when the officer ceased fire and when he ceased fired, Mike Brown started to charge once more at him. When he charged once more, the officer returned fire with, I would say, give an estimate of three to four shots. And that’s when Mike Brown finally collapsed….

  10. There is so much wrong with the Grand Jury proceeding, the Prosecutor’s case and the stories of what happened, that there is more than reasonable doubt in this case that the officer feared for his life and deadly force was necessary whether or not Michael Brown had just committed petty theft. In a climate of militarized policing, these are things that need to be addressed as hopefully a test case to stop the cycle of why cameras are showing it happening to many times. The people given authority are acting in a way contrary to what they swore an oath to uphold in an increasing violent way.

  11. hrhppg,

    Apologies for being presumptuous but I am going to guess that question was for me? I haven’t followed the Eric Garner case very closely at all so I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess as to the culpability of the officer.

  12. commonsense, there was equally reliable testimony from several other witnesses that he was “walking” “taking two steps” and “stumbling.” Several thought it likely that he was trying to surrender.

    At the very least, it sure would have been nice to be able to cross examine these witnesses (including officer Wilson) in a court of law, wouldn’t it?

    And of course, you didn’t answer my question.

  13. Sorry, mike 91. Wasn’t trying to evade your question. I think the answer is that he was punched multiple (more than once) times by the perp inside the car and then there was a possible struggle for the police officer’s weapon (which discharged twice in the vehicle). Then the officer felt he was in mortal danger when a man, much larger than he who had already accosted him and possibly reached for the officer’s weapon, came charging at him.

    As for trying this in a court of law, that is obviously the crux of the issue. I think that the challenge that the grand jury had was that the use of deadly force is permitted if one “reasonably believes” that he is in imminent danger of death or serious injury. As you point out, there were other testimonies. But there were multiple testimonies that lined up with the officer’s account which also were consistent with ballistics evidence.

    Believe me, I hate that this happened. But I don’t want to ignore substantiated, corroborated and consistent eyewitness testimonies that support lawful action. If police cannot rely on the courts to protect their lawful actions, I fear we won’t have a willing police force.

  14. First of all, the instrument for finding guilt or innocence in our system is a court trial, not grand jury testimony. It’s not ignoring testimony to subject it to the review the system says it should undergo.

    Also, anyone familiar with that system knows that an indictment is very easy to get, if a prosecutor wants it, hence the old “ham sandwich” cliche.

    Third, this is not the first time with this prosecutor, who also happens to be the son of a cop killed in the line of duty. In 2001, two undercover DEA officers shot and killed two unarmed drug dealers. They testified that the drug dealers tried to run them over with their car. The grand jury tapes later showed that most witnesses disputed the officers stories. This prosecutor still failed to indict them.

    Oh and Michael Brown is not “much larger” than this officer, who is 6’3″.

  15. mike 91,

    You make a good point – I shouldn’t have said that Brown was “much larger” than Wilson. That is clearly my own interpretation and not a fact. I should have simply stated that Brown was 292 lbs, or 39% larger than Wilson who is 210 lbs.

  16. The two cases are very different and should not be compared. The Garner case was much more “clean cut,” in that the law was clearly broken here, with the use of an illegal chokehold. Whether he was 90 pounds or 400 pounds, it’s still illegal.

    The Brown case is a bit more complicated in that you have conflicting testimony. If you were not there and did not witness it yourself, who do you believe? I don’t think we’ve heard the end of this case yet.

    That being said, whatever was decided in a court of law does NOT give people the right to destroy property or put innocent people in harm’s way. I cannot believe the number of people who defend these actions. It truly boggles my mind.

  17. I think it is great that the students are expressing their right to free speech and getting involved in what they perceive to be the issues that our society faces. However, If they truly believed that “Black Lives Matter”, then they should be involved in protesting the bigger threat to young black lives – the gang violence that kills dozens of children right next door in Paterson and Newark each year. Instead of the headline grabber that this Ferguson mess has become….

    They should protest the death of 15-month old Sania Cunningham who was hit with a stray bullet while playing with her parents in their apartment in Irvington in October.

    Or 12-year-old Genesis Rincon who was shot in the head by a stray bullet while riding a scooter near her home in Paterson over this past summer.

    Or 14-year old Nazerah Bugg who was shot and killed by a stray bullet while walking home with her friends in Paterson in September.

    Or 13-year-old Zainee Hailey who was carrying trash bags out of her family’s apartment on Christmas Day last year when she was struck and killed by gang related gunfire.

    Or the murder of 19-year old Kashan Sumpter who was shot to death just last week in Paterson in gang related violence……

    Or the dozens of black gang members (innocent or not) that are murdered each year in these cities through gang related violence……

  18. I agree with the decision on the Brown case, because of the facts.

    This was an extremely thorough investigation, if not one of the most thorough in US history. This was a federal, again, federal investigation lead by attorney general Eric Holder. Every single possible eyewitness account was taken, and multiple autopsies were conducted.

    Many witness views were contradicting that Brown had his hands up. In fact, the majority of the eyewitness accounts say he didn’t. For example, witness 10.

    The multiple autopsies proved that Brown was not shot in the back at all, and multiple eyewitness accounts say that he reached into the car so that his upper body was inside.

    All of the evidence and every single eyewitness testimony were presented to a completely randomly selected grand jury. The grand jury was selected randomly in May of 2014, before the incident occurred.

    Again, every single piece of evidence was presented to the grand jury.

    To not indict officer Wilson is saying that there was not even a slightly significant possibility that it was anything other than an act self defense, and based on the facts, that is why I agree with the decision.

  19. What facts? Because outside of the autopsies (which prove very little), all we have is conflicting testimony. We have a system for deciding which testimony is most likely true, and that’s a trial, not a grand jury.

  20. mike 91,

    Most of the eyewitness statements suggest Brown was not running away, and many of the statements that say that Brown was running and/or had his hands up were proven to be completely
    made up, and the autopsies PROVED that there was absolutely no chance that he was shot in the back.

  21. mike 91,

    You seem very dissatisfied with the outcome but I’m uncertain where your dissatisfaction lies. And while I’m not going to try and change your mind, it would help me to understand what the source of your dissatisfaction is.

    – Are you upset with the grand jury system or the grand jurors themselves? You rightly point out that the court trial is the instrument that determines guilt or the absence of guilt (not innocence as you suggested). But determining guilt or not is only needed if the grand jury (in Missouri) deems that there was probable cause to believe that a criminal act was committed at all.

    – Are you upset with the prosecutor? You seem to believe that his family history should determine his ability to perform his job. It seems like he didn’t believe there was enough evidence to push for an indictment. So instead of just dropping it, he presented all the evidence to the grand jury and allowed them to come to their own conclusion. Your ham sandwich reference indicates that you endorse the typical grand jury process of prosecutors putting forth only evidence supporting their case. Is that at which you are mad?

    – Are you upset with the voters of Missouri for electing this Democratic prosecutor seven times? Are you upset with the twice-elected Democratic governor (and 16 year Attorney General prior to that) who didn’t defy the will of the voters by replacing the prosecutor in this case?

    – Are you upset with Officer Wilson because you know that he didn’t act in self-defense? Or that you are certain he used excessive force?

  22. Aaaaaaand Mike91 is a troll. So I’ll
    speak snarky troll language:

    I guess the sign wouldn’t be as catchy if it said,”Black Lives Matter if the killing involves white cops but not if it’s right next door and involves black on black shootings. In that case we’ll just ignore it because it’s easier to jump on the racial-divide bandwagon than address the real issues that face the black youth.”

  23. Oh, the old saw that people that point out that perhaps the police maybe have an issue with dealing black men are the real racists. But I’m the one trolling.

    Changing the subject from a civil rights issue to whatever you think is the “real issue” is still changing the subject. Sorry I have to point this out.

    You seem very dissatisfied with the outcome but I’m uncertain where your dissatisfaction lies

    Oh stop. I have been very clear. Your post pretending to be “helpful” is condescending and annoying.

    Again, we agree that there were conflicting accounts of what happened after the scuffle in the car. Why did the grand jury believe one witness over another? Well we’ll never find out will we? Why wasn’t the testimony supporting a crime was believed over the testimony that did not?

  24. Pretty interesting to see the outline of the Millennial’s approach versus the GenX’ers. And the photo is a keeper.

    We BabyBoomers had our shot, but we’re coming up on the closing ceremonies. It would be nice if we heard from more young voices/young leaders, but that generational thing always gets in the way.

  25. Sorry – wasn’t trying to be condescending and certainly wasn’t trying to annoy you. I see this issue differently than you do but was trying to remain open minded and understand your perspective better. I suppose I could have refused to listen to a contrasting viewpoint and just screamed my position louder but cable news has already claimed that medium.

    I can’t answer your last questions. I can only make an educated guess that they found the testimonies supporting exoneration more credible and consistent with physical evidence than they found the testimonies that implicated Wilson in a crime. I am willing to believe the grand jury acted responsibly though.

  26. Not to move the topic in another direction but I just viewed the Eric Garner video for the first time. It’s horrible. I don’t believe that Mrs Martta is correct describing the chokehold as illegal. I believe it’s against NYPD policy but that’s a different threshold than being illegal. It may sound like splitting hairs but in the court of law, it’s a dramatic difference. That said, I would love to see the testimony given to this grand jury. From the little I know, I’m surprised there wasn’t an indictment.

  27. Did Eric Garner actually have his hands up just prior to the fatal chokehold being applied ?

    Sure looks that way on the video.

  28. Illegal or against NYPD policy, it’s prohibited for a reason and this case illustrates that reason. The minute Garner yelled that he couldn’t breathe should have been a cue for police to back off and release the chokehold. I am really surprised that they didn’t indict in this case.

  29. Why are these kids ( and commenters) protesting a case from across the country, one they know little about, yet ignore the violence and shooting deaths that occur annually in their own sacred Baristaville?

  30. If you watch the video again they weren’t choking him. The one much shorter officer jumped up and hooked him around the neck to bring him down. At no point was there a choke HOLD. The resisting suspect had an extensive history of pre existing medical conditions that the police aren’t required to know prior to making the decision to arrest. Once an officer does decide to make an arrest it is not for you to decide that the law doesn’t apply to you and that “it stops now”. It is also not an option for the police to walk away from an arrest once the suspect is resisting, they are then granted the reasonable force necessary to make the arrest. Lastly I can’t blame them for not backing off after “I can’t breath” or “it hurts” because I’m sure that’s a tactic that’s often used in hopes the police do back off which buys them time to rest and continue resisting or hiding their hands from the officer. Just some thoughts for all the seasoned law enforcement experts here.

  31. People who are “surprised” that there wasn’t an indictment in the Garner case are missing the point. The protests in Ferguson, and elsewhere, are a culmination of several such “surprises” this community has to put up with.

    Here in New York, people were surprised after nothing happened to the officers who shot Amadou Diallo. Then they were surprised again after nothing happened to the officers who shot Sean Bell. They were surprised after nothing happened to the officers in cases of Anthony Baez, Nicholas Heyward, Timothy Stansbury, and Ousmane Zongo. And that’s just New York.

    My point is, we’re are in for continual surprises in the future, unless something changes.

  32. Mike 91 – If you believe that a parent being afraid to let their child ride a scooter in front of their house out of fear that they may be killed by a stray gang bullet isn’t a civil rights issue…then you are sadly misguided. It is no different than walking the streets out of fear that you may be assaulted or killed by a police officer. Both go unenforced (primarily due to cover-ups, intimidation and fear of retaliation). Both degrade our communities.

    The difference is that the prior is much more common – and the blood is on the hands of their own community members. There isn’t anyone to point fingers at. It doesn’t make as good of a headline. And it is rapidly getting worse.

    The latter is far from perfect – but has come a looong way over the past 50 years. And greater steps will also now be taken thanks to the awareness brought to the issue. But there still is a long way to go.

    I’m all for fixing these problems and prosecuting those that are guilty. But when we say “Black Lives Matter” let’s be real about this.

  33. “Why are these kids ( and commenters) protesting a case from across the country, one they know little about, yet ignore the violence and shooting deaths that occur annually in their own sacred Baristaville?”

    —-well said reddumb! Let’s adress the core issues you cite and start pushing for some significant gun control. Sounds like you are down with that!

  34. Office Wilson – can understand why he wasn’t indicated based on all I have read but also would have understood it going to trial. Saw the video of the kid using his size to intimidate and menace the store owner and can believe that he was in the same frame of mind when encountering the officer – he did not appear to be a peaceful, college-bound teen when he menaced the store owner and shoved him to leave with his stolen cigars. Believe that police officers have protections that saved Wilson and understand why that is.

    Eric Gardner – saw the video, understand he was unarmed and his illegal activity was far from potentially violent. This should absolutely have gone to trial.

    Glad that the people in NYC are protesting peacefully – though it was annoying to get stuck in cross-town traffic for an hour yesterday, I sympathize. Those in Fergusen would be better served channeling their energy into cleaning up their town and having their local leadership better represent the citizens. From what I read that town is 50+% African-American yet the PD and town leadership is predominately white. Your community needs to better represent the make-up of the citizens so that when things happen (whatever decision or action it is from the local gov that irks the citizens), people view those in charge as human beings – who are maybe trying their best and can make mistakes – instead of as simply “those people” who’s sole mission is to keep us down.

  35. The difference is that the prior is much more common – and the blood is on the hands of their own community members

    First of all, if you include “harrassment by the police,” I’m not sure it’s less common. Go look at the statistics for the stop and frisk program, and the inequality there, even in predominatly white neighborhoods.

    More importantly, your post highlights the problem with changing the subject, as you and lots of other try to do. You try to make “their community” the issue, and in these cases, it is not.

  36. You guys (maybe gals, I don’t know)…are on an anonymous forum, not a middle school playground. Michael Brown was probably aggressive, officer Wilson I’m sure did fear for his life. But was his life actually in danger? Did Michael Brown have to die? Probably not, and that is the scenario for so many deaths in the context of police interaction with minorities, that is what leaves so many families in tears and entire communities up in arms. This keeps happening, and in the case of Garner, the whole thing was taped from ten feet away and STILL not even a case was brought against the officer.

  37. 1) Choke holds are not allowed by the NYPD.
    2) The medical examiner ruled that Eric Garner’s death was a homicide and not a natural or accidental death.
    3) The entire incident is on video.
    4) Below are Eric Garner’s last words.
    Now, imagine Eric Garner was a friend or family member of yours

    Transcript: Get away [garbled] for what? Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today. Why would you…? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn’t do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because everytime you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me [garbled] Selling cigarettes. I’m minding my business, officer, I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone. please please, don’t touch me. Do not touch me. [garbled] I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.

  38. Officer Wilson said that one of his responsibilities as a law officer was to pursue fleeing suspects. It was during this ‘pursuit’ that the fatal shots were fired, killing Mr. Brown. From a pure tactical standpoint, police departments need to embrace the notion of: ‘don’t pursue; the suspect isn’t going anywhere, wait for backup to arrive on-scene and de-escalate the situation’. Also, there was no reason that NYPD had to wrestle Mr. Garner to the ground. This was a classic example of over-kill in a situation where Mr. Garner was not an imminent physical threat to anyone.

  39. Mike 91 –
    I’m not changing the subject. It’s not one or the other. I’m simply pointing out the irony (and frustration) of saying “Black Lives Matter” – while being silent on the greater injustice to black communities and threat to black lives…which is gang related and primarily black-on-black. I’m not sure about Ferguson (too much conflicting info) – but the choking incident was awful and should be prosecuted.

    Police use of force, racial profiling etc is terrible – but despite these cases, it has also come along way since the 1950s and will continue to get better thanks to the attention it is getting. Now the gang related black-on-black violence that occurs daily needs to get the same level of attention. But I’m sorry to say, I’m not hopeful that it will. Because, well, its just not sexy news.

  40. ‘Black on black crime’ is an abysmal choice of words, and almost completely meaningless. It would, by definition, include incidents that would involve, say, a Ghanaian immigrant being mugged by a Haitian immigrant, or vice versa, or any number of alternate scenarios…. So, are the people who are fond of the term ‘black on black crime’ perhaps only referring to blacks who have roots in American slavery committing crimes against each other?

  41. All this talk about being #unarmed reminds me of the recent incident in Maryland where the Hudson County Detective from NJ rightly shot the “unarmed” man who was walking towards him while shouting.

    You don’t necessarily have to be armed to pose a threat that necessitates that kind of use of force by police.

    BTW~ The City of Newark had 8 shootings in 8 days, including the son of a NPD officer:

    If we went by the numbers, it’s fairly clear that it’s not the police that are murdering people. It’s the street gangs.

  42. Police officers are sworn to “serve and protect”. Gang members are not. Getting guns off the street would be great. However, the murderous misuse of police power can be and needs to be cracked down on forcefully.

  43. “If we went by the numbers, it’s fairly clear that it’s not the police that are murdering people. It’s the street gangs.”

    —if we went by the numbers, we’d be having a domestic violence conversation, as the majority of victims knew their killer. As for gangs v cops, guess that depends on where you live:

    And, for the white folks playing the “black on black” crime card, read up:

  44. The police are there to protect and serve, not to unnecessarily shoot your pet and use swat teams to serve warrants. If they need backup of the Nation Guard, then that’s the resource they should be using. Perspective on the difference between community police and militarized police force, and why it is more than just upsetting even if don’t live around the more radical police.
    Outlaw ALL the military surplus going to civilians, including police, unless it’s not a weapon or a vehicle. (I.E. office supplies would be OK). Destroy or recycle what can’t be used by the National Guard, and let’s look into why so much is available with the size of the Pentagon’s budget.

  45. I spend 10 hours a day in NYC. I will be honest, I want the NYPD to be completely militarized. Not to deal with Eric Garner or Michael Brown. But when ISIS (or similar) stages an organized attack in the city, I want something more than just some guys and gals, driving around in Ford Fusions with 9 mm Glocks on their hips.

  46. It’s seems like in all the uproar a couple lesson have been ignored. No matter what your racial or ethnic background is if you rob a store things could end badly….resist arrest, whether the arrest is justified or not, things will definitely end badly.
    Are there some bad cops out there…sure…are there some cops that are jerks…sure…but without them things would deteriorate quickly. Keep in mind even in a routine traffic stop they must be nervous too…they deal with a lot of crap.
    It seem like the common denominator in nearly all police/civilian tragedies is the initial poor behavior choices by the civilian.

  47. want the NYPD to be completely militarized. Not to deal with Eric Garner or Michael Brown. But when ISIS (or similar) stages an organized attack in the city, I want something more than just some guys and gals, driving around in Ford Fusions with 9 mm Glocks on their hips.

    How about instead, you stop coming to New York? Because the chances of “ISIS or someone similar” pulling off an attack that requires military weapons is approximately zero, and I would rather the cops not look like an occupying army.

  48. mike 91,

    I appreciate your absolute confidence in our ability to deter an attack and I pray every day that you are right. Having lost two close friends on 9/11, I developed a different appreciation for the ingenuity and determination of terrorists. So I don’t put the chances at approximately zero.

    As for your suggestion to stop coming to New York, that’s not the solution for me. I was born here and it’s my home. I’m determined not to be scared away from it. I would rather continue to come here every day and feel that I’m as well-protected here as possible.

  49. Well you know watching on tv it looks like New York dealt with thousands of protestors without assault rifles and armored military vehicles. Turning the police into the military seems to create as many problems as it solves. Leave the war to the army and the protests to the police.

  50. Having lost two close friends on 9/11, I developed a different appreciation for the ingenuity and determination of terrorists.

    Sorry, but no different than me, who was working on the corner of Wall St. and Broadway at the time. And you are entitled to your own opinion of how approximate the chances are, but they are still zero.

    I’m glad you’re determined to not be scared away. Too bad you’re not determined enough.

Comments are closed.