The Washington Post

Howard U. students take stand in Ferguson shooting, pose for picture that goes viral

It was a simple snapshot. With both hands raised, 250 Howard University students posed for a picture that later went viral on Twitter with the hashtag #DONTSHOOT.

It’s a pictorial statement in the wake of the fatal police shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on Saturday. The students who organized the photo shoot, during an orientation meeting Wednesday night with move-in-day volunteers, said they saw the pictures of the riots , looting and violence that ensued. But they wanted to show something else.

“If you take anything from that image, it’s that even our innocence is lethal,” said Khalil Saadiq, a 19-year-old sophomore who asked fellow students to pose with their hands raised.

“It’s the epitome of ‘I’m innocent,’ ” added Ikenna “Ike” Ikeotuonye, a 20-year-old senior and vice president of the university’s student government association.

Ikeotuonye took the picture, which had more than 9,000 retweets by Thursday afternoon.

“I think the biggest thing for me was seeing everyone’s face in the crowd,” he said. “The crowd fell silent. Everyone was talking and laughing before . . . and you could see the somber attitude that waved over the crowd.”

A university spokeswoman said a former student, Mya White who graduated in 2012, was shot while demonstrating in Ferguson after Brown’s death. So the fatal shooting of Brown, though far away, really hit close to home.

Not only was a fellow university member hurt, but Brown was just like them: a young African American who graduated from high school and was on the brink of furthering his education.

“It makes me feel less than. Less than our racial counterparts,” Ikeotuonye said of the shooting. “It happens in other races — it’s not just a black thing . . . [but] these things don’t happen as often as they do in the black community.”

Howard University students are planning to hold a vigil Thursday night on campus near Founders Library. The vigil starts at 8:30 p.m. in the 500 block of Howard Pl. NW.

The students are not alone. A vigil calling for “Justice for Mike Brown” is planned for the Washington region and is scheduled to be held in Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park, at 7 p.m. Thursday.

And if a picture is worth a thousand words, Ikeotuonye said, “it’s the first step of many.”

Victoria St. Martin covers breaking news and Prince William County for The Post's Local desk.


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