The Black Students’ Network (BSN) organized a vigil on Lower Field at McGill on Tuesday, Nov. 26, held in memory of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri. On Nov. 24, Robert McCulloch, prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County, Missouri, announced that the grand jury presiding over Wilson’s indictment hearing for Brown’s death had decided not to indict Wilson.
The grand jury’s decision was met with controversy throughout the United States and internationally, leading to protests in Ferguson and around the world. According to Richenda Grazette, BSN internal coordinator, the vigil was organized to bring together McGill students affected by this decision .
“[The vigil] was important to organize for us because we were greatly disappointed by the verdict, and we knew that a lot of other students and members of the community were likely feeling the same emotions as us,” Grazette said. “We were trying to send a message of support and solidarity, both with one another and with other ongoing protests across North America.”
The vigil itself was sombre and moving, according to Blare Coughlin, U3 Arts, who attended the event.
“There was just a very palpable feeling of mourning and apprehension,” Coughlin said. “This is about a black boy who was murdered, the refusal of the American government to acknowledge that black lives matter, and the institutional racism that permeates our lives.”
Grazette echoed these views, stating that the presence of attendees to the vigil was very powerful.
“I can only really speak for myself, but I found the vigil incredibly moving and positive,” she said.
Coughlin also spoke to the role of non-black allies in the discourse surrounding this case.
“Speak out, definitely,” Coughlin said. “But don’t speak over.”
In light of these recent events, last Thursday, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council passed a motion to work with BSN in standing in solidarity with those affected by police brutality.
Going forward, Grazette highlights the importance of continuing discourse about institutionalized racism.
“The most important thing is to not forget or stop talking about these issues, and especially not forgetting the names of lives lost,” she said.