SIARAPB Rallies for Civil Rights, Equality Near Campus Center
By Tommy Gallagher
CSI students, faculty, and staff marched in protest of police brutality and inequality at a rally held in front of the Campus Center on March 24.
Organized by the students of Staten Island Against Racism and Police Brutality (SIARAPB) in response to the rising cases of police violence, the event took place days after the fiftieth anniversary of the civil rights marches in Selma, Alabama.
“We are going to get the word out on campus,” said Krystal Raiford-Sanchez. “It would be good to see an uprising of students.”
The theme of the march was “From Selma to Staten Island: Freedom Now!” and marchers intended to raise awareness about the victims of police brutality, wearing signs with the photos of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin.
Marchers also rallied for people to fight for issues such as free quality education through university, healthcare, affordable quality housing, and well-paid jobs for all.
Protesters cheered when guest speaker Eric Lerner, President of Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, was introduced after the march paused in front of building 1C.
In a five minute speech, Lerner discussed his experiences at the 1965 civil rights marches in Selma and its fiftieth anniversary commemoration on March 7, including views on how to change the future.
“[The Selma march] was more integrated in 1965. This time the crowd was 95 percent black,” Lerner exclaimed. “Racism is clearly still alive there.”
“We need a system of government that hasn’t been done before,” he continued.
“We need a system in which all decisions are made by the people who work.”
The final part of the rally took place in front of the bathrooms next to parking lot six, where CSI employee Corey Holmes went into cardiac arrest while in police custody on November 29, 2011.
Holmes was an off-duty cafeteria worker that had been with the college for 10 years when he was stopped by an officer who caught him smoking marijuana.
After he tried to escape, a violent struggle ensued, and Holmes went into cardiac arrest after being handcuffed. He was pronounced dead at Richmond University Medical Center.
“When I got here nobody knew about the case,” said SIARAPB Vice President Leslie Amaro.
“Nobody ever did anything to publicize it.”
As the protesters gathered around the spot that the fatal struggle occurred just a few years ago, Peter McFarland quietly spoke to the crowd about his former co-worker.
“He was a human being,” said McFarland.
“We still don’t know what happened to him.”
An anrgy roar of voices followed the statement, calling for a private investigation outside of the police.
Protesters expressed their outrage at the administration for never conducting an outside investigation into the death of Holmes. Many expressed the need for an objective outside investigator, claiming that the police cannot be left to keep themselves in check.
The angry calls for the police to be held accountable led into a speech by a student, who talked about the 43 college students that were declared dead after being handed over by corrupt police to a notorious gang while raising money and stealing buses for a protest.
The student was followed by Professor Harry Cason and others, who discussed the importance of actively fighting for issues such as free and quality education and better contracts for teachers by protesting, petitioning, and contacting local Congressional leaders.
The rally began at the fountain behind building 1P with a low turnout, but with loud chants of “We March! We Step!”
“Racism is everyone’s problem,” said SIARAPB member Elizabeth Allen.
“If you’re not angry about it, you’re not paying attention.”