“This is a genocide, make no mistake. We are dying in the streets at the hands of police, those sworn to protect us,” shouted a University of Pennsylvania student protester on Friday.
The Penn student organization, SOUL (Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation), held their first protest in a series of demonstrations that are set to take place every other Friday on Locust Walk.
This is not the first time SOUL has staged evocative protests. Two years ago, SOUL sparked controversy on campus when they held a fake slave auction in front of a fraternity house to protest the frat’s use of a black blow-up sex doll in their holiday photo.
In a social media post, SOUL referred to Friday’s demonstration, which will be known as “Ferguson Friday’s”, as a “safe space for those who feel silenced on this campus.”
The demonstration itself consisted of an African American student laying on the ground with fake blood on his body, as well as on the ground around him. Another student used a microphone to describe his feelings regarding race in America, specifically African Americans killed in police custody.
In addition to anger at what he perceives as a status quo of oppression, the student speaking directed frustration at the media and at members of the student body. He claimed that “this is what the media doesn’t want you to see,” and criticized students as “disgusting” as they walked by without acknowledging the protest.
The speaker said, “It is disturbing that even though we have a body here covered in blood, you’re not even stopping to pay attention. And yet on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, you can retweet, like, and repost everything that has gone on” with the Black Lives Matter movement.
He said that students who engage in social media activism without participating in physical activism are “nowhere to be found, like a phantom in the night.”
The speaker expressed his belief that “black bodies like [his own], like those of [his] brothers, mothers, fathers, sisters are in danger.”
He went on to say that “this,” referring to the deaths of African Americans in encounters with police, “is genocide.”
The student claimed that he would not use the term “genocide” lightly, and uses it because he believes that black and brown individuals have been systematically and continually killed since America’s earliest days.
He stated that “anyone with melanin is in danger,” and that “they,” referring presumably to white people, “have declared war on black and brown bodies.”
Throughout the demonstration, the popular protest song “Hell You Talmbout” was played behind the student’s speech. The song repeats the names of African Americans killed in police custody or in race-based violence, and repeats “Say his name, won’t you say his name?”