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Act up, act now

| Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Shortly after noon on Tuesday, I joined a group of students and faculty in a peaceful protest on the sidewalk between O’Shaughnessy Hall and DeBartolo Hall. We laid on the ground for 11 minutes in reference to the 11 times Eric Garner stated that he could not breathe as a New York City police officer used a chokehold that ultimately ended his life. After the allotted time had passed, we stood up and chanted as we dispersed to class.

I have never felt more proud to be a part of the Notre Dame community. But we are not done.

The epidemic of police brutality is one that can not be ignored. The senseless deaths of Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and countless others, combined with the utter lack of culpability for their killers, makes me ashamed as an American and as a human being.

I am lucky that my reaction is one of shame, frustration and anger as opposed to complete fear for my life. This is a black issue, and I can not imagine how black people across the country must feel as these killings keep happening with no repercussions, the American justice system communicating loudly and clearly that their lives are not even worth a trial.

Here at Notre Dame, a campus dominated by white people, it can be easy to brush all this off. I myself have never been uncomfortable around the police, have never worried that an innocent gesture could be interpreted as a threat and have never feared that I would be gunned down in the street. White people can not let their privilege block out what is happening to black people. All lives matter, yes, but black lives are repeatedly treated as disposable.

This has to change. If you’d like to help, come to the discussion at Legends at 7:30 Wednesday night. Help put up markers for the deceased on South Quad on Thursday morning.

At the very least, have a conversation. Talk to your friends, talk to your professors, talk to your family. This movement is not against any institution or group of people. It is about securing equal protection under law for all, regardless of race.

In the face of such tragedies, it is tempting to lose faith, to succumb to cynicism. Don’t. Change is possible with hope, with solidarity and with action. I would like to close with the advice we chanted on Tuesday as we concluded the protest, “Act up. Act now. Act up. Act now.”

Jack Riedy


Morrissey Hall

Dec. 9

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Agree with the purpose, planning, action, and goal. However…

    ACT UP is an acronym for “AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power”, a “international direct action advocacy group working to impact the lives of people with AIDS (PWAs) and the AIDS pandemic” founded in 1987. ACT UP started the “silence = death” campaign – which has been adopted by a variety of other groups & causes – in addition to staging numerous high-profile sit-ins and protests, one being three activists interrupting the beginning of The CBS Evening News broadcast, Dan Rather anchoring, on the night of January 22, 1991 – the activists burst in front of the camera, in front of Rather, and began to chant “Fight AIDS not Arabs! Fight AIDS not Arabs!”, the reference being to the First Gulf War. Rather said very simply and calmly “We’re going to go to take a quick commercial break.”

    History as one large re-looped video.

    • 2xEIC

      An AIDS group used ACT UP as an acronym 25 years ago and this means what? This letter doesn’t use ACT UP as an acronym. So thanks for that non sequitur.

  • Johnny Whichard

    Apparently somebody didn’t bother to read any of the facts about the Michael Brown case… SMH

    • Nathan

      I found the Brown case unusual and disappointing (I think even if he were acquitted in trial, it would have still been more appropriate to go through the motions), but I at least understood how the jury could come to its conclusion (conflicting witness statements, seeming exonerating evidence, etc). In the case of Eric Garner however there was a bloody video. And in both cases, a case can indisputably be made that police are proving very quick to use force and that is having tragic consequences.

      I am still not convinced that either killing was racially motivated, but ultimately it’s at least plausible enough that a discussion should be had, and this is the sort of demonstration is a brilliant way to keep that discussion going.

      • Johnny Whichard

        So every time a white person harms a black person in self-defense, the case should automatically go through the motions? That’s a blatantly racist assumption.

        • Nathan

          I think that ANYTIME someone kills another person, even if in self defense, we should go through the motions. Nothing racial about it.

          Also saying harm when the person in question was killed is a little dishonest.

          • Johnny Whichard

            That would mean wasting tax payer money, dozens of peoples’ time, and putting all involved in a longer/more painful process. Frankly, it is stupid to ignore blatant evidence like everybody who is protesting the Michael Brown case. Look at facts….not emotions. Just because people WANT to believe Michael Brown’s killer was racist doesn’t make it true.

          • Nathan

            And in the face of such evidence, it should be a very short trial. I’m not going to butt heads over the details of that case. I’ll only say that it’s well established that the way the grand jury was conducted was rather irregular and I think that a trial would have been more appropriate.

            I don’t understand though why you keep bringing up racism claims when I’ve made it very clear in both my comments that race is not a factor as far as I’m concerned.