What started as a mass email from UNC student activist groups calling for a rally ended as a march that stopped traffic for half an hour on Franklin Street.
Protesters carried orange hoodies, beat drums and held signs that read “Disarm the Police” and “Don’t Shoot” as they chanted “No Justice, No Peace, F— the Police” into the Friday night traffic. A protester also shouted “Michael Brown” to remember the unarmed black teen who was shot and killed by Ferguson police earlier this month.
The rally began at 7:30 p.m. at the Peace and Justice Plaza in front of the post office on East Franklin Street. Student groups involved included the Black Student Movement and the anarchist group UNControllables.
“The folks in Ferguson resisting police brutality and anti-black racism in their community asked people to stand in solidarity with them,” said UNC English and history double major Van Dellz.
“That is why this march is happening in Chapel Hill. It’s not just Ferguson, but the United States.”
Other speakers included members of the UNC Ebony Readers/Onyx Theatre poetry group, local residents and Sammy Slade, a member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.
EROT member Jocelyn Byer performed a poem about violence against black men in the U.S.
“I always wanted daughters, because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to teach my sons how to be black men,” she said in the piece.
The Chapel Hill police force arrived when the march began, blocking off traffic to make way for the protest, but did not interact with the crowd and made no arrests.
“We were informed that there was going to be a rally at the post office, so that’s what we anticipated,” said Lt. Kevin Gunter, the shift supervisor for the police force on the night of the protest.
Slade said the Carrboro town government has requested an inventory of all police armaments used in response to the occupation of the Yates Building incident in 2011 in Chapel Hill. That event involved a police team armed with assault rifles dispersing a crowd and arresting eight people that broke into an abandoned building as part of the Occupy movement.
“One of the things in Ferguson about the police force is that it is non-representative of the people they are policing,” Slade said.
“It doesn’t matter if you are white or black, but when you are participating in the police force, you are participating in that system of oppression.”
Poetry group member Levincent Clark said rallies are important, but only when they are a first step toward policy change.
“It will take more than rallying — we need to have an organized political and economic push,” he said.
After an hour of protesting on the plaza, the group took to the streets, accumulating dozens of pedestrians as they marched to the intersection of Franklin Street and Church Street.
The march was briefly interrupted when UNC student and protestor Ishmael Bishop, who is also a columnist for The Daily Tar Heel, called for protestors to stop spilling into the street and blocking the intersection of Franklin and Columbia Streets.
“This is a time and a place for mourning, but you do not mourn this way, you do not heal this way — this is chaos,” Bishop said.
Dell said she supports the fervor of protests against the events in Ferguson because racism is still pervasive in the United States.
“Black presidents don’t end attacks on the black community, but ending the source of the attacks might,” she said.