As graduating students prepare for commencement, some will use the opportunity as a final form of student activism by putting their hands up to show solidarity for the victims of police shootings.
The Black Student Union and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán are organizing students to participate in the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot Graduation” during several 2015 commencement ceremonies at SF State. They hope to support the national movement that has raised attention the issue of police shootings, according to senior broadcast and electronic communication arts student and main organizer, Xavier Galindo.
From Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson in August 2014 to Freddie Gray’s more recent death in April, protesters nationwide have led actions calling for justice for victims of police negligence. Students demonstrated solidarity at SF State during the National Day of Awareness Against Police Brutality last October when students dropped “dead” at a die-in demonstration.
“I don’t think we’ve done enough,” Galindo said. “This has been happening for what, a year and a half? This issue of police shootings. I believe the university has a long history of activism and I don’t think we’ve seen enough from college students here in terms of what happened.”
Students who participate in social movements and protests are willing to risk more since they don’t face the same consequences their parents do, according to political science professor Robert Smith.
“Over the years, young people tend to have more freedom than their elders,” Smith said. “That is, they don’t have responsibilities like mortgage or loans.”
Anthony Amaro, graduating psychology student and BSU member said he plans to put his hands up at the ceremonies he’s attending to bring awareness and unity surrounding the issue of what he calls is an oppressive system against people of color.
“As people of color are being affected negatively by systems and policies put in place that seem to really affect a certain type of people,” Amaro said. “People of color really need to unify on that and really start to be aware of just what we’re against.”
Amaro said that it is particularly important for SF State to show solidarity the victims of police shootings considering the history of activism on campus. He credited BSU’s efforts in collaboration with other organizations in the 1960s to form the college of ethnic studies.
BSU and the Third World Liberation Front led a major five month campus strike in 1968 which resulted in the creation of the ethnic studies department, according to an SF State news brief.
“We created something– the (College of) Ethnic studies,” Amaro said. “If we want more of that on a grander scale, we have to come together on a grander scale. This was campus unity.”
Smith said although that the activism students participate in now is much more conventional than in the 1960s, they are still forerunners in creating social change.
“I wouldn’t expect any powerful social movements to be effective unless it had students in some way as the vanguard of it,” Smith said.
Galindo said he strongly believed that college students have a voice worth listening to.
“I want people to see that young college students care about this issue and that we also have something to say about it,” Galindo said. “We want to express our opinions about it and hopefully that influences people in power and encourages others to join and do something about it.”
Galindo said he is dedicating his last days at SF State to help college students realize the waves they can create in national policy.
“I just want college students to be more politicized and feel more empowered to do something and say something,” Galindo said.