About 30 students at a Prince George’s County high school walked out of their student government class on Thursday with their hands up and marched to the school lobby to participate in a “die-in” protest.
One student held two signs in the shape of two hands that read “Speak” and “Up” as they walked. Another student had a sign taped to his shirt that read: “I Can’t Breathe.” And one boy carried a sign that said “Justice Has Not Been Served.”
Juwan Blocker, 16, a sophomore at Parkdale High School in Riverdale said he and other organizers of the demonstration saw it as their way to make their voices heard about the recent grand jury decisions not to indict officers in the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
“The message that I wanted to send is that we have the right to assemble peacefully and express our feelings in a positive matter,” he said.
The students at the Prince George’s County school replicated protests that have formed in public places in cities across the country.
Jocelyn Nolasco, 17, a senior, said her community of immigrant families “keeps issues to themselves,” but the more she talked to other students, she thought about the impact the grand jury decisions have on her and others.
Parkdale Principal Tanya Washington said she received word of the students lying on the lobby floor.
She asked one of the students what they were doing. They said they were supporting Ferguson. And, she said, she wanted them to know they had her support.
“I wanted them to know it’s okay to have a voice and for their voices to be heard,” she said. “I want them to advocate for themselves.”
Blocker said the students remained on the floor for four minutes and 30 seconds to symbolize the four hours and 30 minutes that Brown lay on the ground.
Blocker said he just felt like he had to do something.
“The night I heard the decision my mind was all over the place,” he said. “I didn’t agree with the court system not indicting the officer in his case. I knew deep within that they wouldn’t, but I had hope alive that they would indict. It was more upsetting.”