Participants included students from UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Greensboro, Winston-Salem State University, Appalachian State University, N.C. Central University, N.C. A&T and N.C. State University.
The demonstrators had tape over their mouths with written statements such as “I Matter” as well as messages on their shirts and all-black clothing. They either knelt with their hands behind their heads or lay flat on the ground. The protest was silent until participants chanted at the end.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains,” they chanted.
The demonstration was organized by UNC-G seniors Jane White and Odie Roberson. White started the “I Matter Monday” movement on UNC-G’s campus. She said they organize events every Monday to educate themselves on relevant issues.
White said the protest was centered around police brutality at first but changed after the election results.
“We want to express how we feel about the election and also what’s happening on our campuses separately, and how we can combine for something like this to stand together and show how we feel,” she said.
White said she hoped the protest would unify students and help them take a stand together for something bigger than themselves.
“I want these schools to realize that even though we go to different universities, the black is still the same, the fight is still the same, and to be able to unify through our diversity and stand together,” she said.
UNC-G junior Fantazia Hines, a friend of White’s, was a participant in the protest. She said she and other UNC-G students came to Chapel Hill to further the movement.
“We’ve protested many times at (UNC-G) and in downtown Greensboro, but if you just keep doing the same thing in one spot, it won’t be as beneficial as going out and trying to spread it,” she said.
Hines said she participated in this protest and prior protests in Greensboro in order to be an active participant rather than a silent bystander.
“Maybe I need to be a change and make a change in myself so I can actually say something about the movement,” she said.
Deborah Russell, who is 65 years old, was walking along Franklin Street when she saw the demonstration and decided to join.
“It was just a beautiful protest,” she said. “It was nonviolent and it spoke to a lot of the violence that has been going on over the last few months to people of color. I wanted to be a part of it.”
Russell said she has been involved in protest marches previously as well as the 1960s anti-war movement.
UNC-CH sophomore Sophia Wilhelm-Demekas, a Washington, D.C., native who has worked for Black Lives Matter protests, witnessed the demonstration and said she thought it was effective because it was peaceful rather than destructive while still taking a clear stand.
“I think it’s really easy to see that people are hurting, people are suffering, and that can’t really be misunderstood,” she said.