Milton Student at Front Line of Ferguson Protest
by Hannah Hoffman on Friday, December 5th, 2014
Last Tuesday, November 27th, at 7pm, Thia Simon (I) took to the streets of Boston with roughly 1,600 other people to protest the grand jury’s recent decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed, black teenager. By the end of the movement, Thia was one of 45 protesters arrested and brought before judges in Roxbury and Boston Municipal Court the next day.
The event, intended to be a motivational speech and a chance for crowd members to step up and speak their minds, was designed by Black Lives Matter, an organization created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s alleged killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for the crime.
Although last Tuesday’s event was not initially publicized as a march, Thia recalls, “One person came up and said, ‘We need to start moving; we need to be on the streets; we need to stop preaching to the choir.’ …It wasn’t planned to start marching, but it kind of just happened.”
The crowd, made up of people of all races, ethnicities, and ages, occupied the Massachusetts Avenue connector and attempted to march onto the I-93 highway and later the Massachusetts Turnpike near South Station. Thia says that one of the most memorable aspects of the march was stopping outside South Bay Correctional Center, where “there were prisoners banging on the walls and spelling ‘Mike Brown’ on the windows.”
Soon after the march paused outside the prison, policemen began to arrest protesters. Thia says, “For the first two arrests, I thought, ‘Wow I can’t handle this.’ Cops pulled a man through the crowd and pushed him to the ground. The force they threw him down with was ridiculous.”
When the protesters turned away from I-93 and headed towards the Mass Pike, Thia was at the front of the crowd. “We were literally stopping traffic. Cars were honking at us in support. It was such a powerful feeling,” she recalls. However, Thia soon realized that a friend she made during the march, Armando, got separated from his older sister. Thia says, “There were so many people that Armando’s sister couldn’t even get to him, so I started feeling very panicky. I tried to grab Armando and pull him from the cops, but they pulled me by my hair… through the barricade of police cars. Sitting down on the pavement, I saw other people being arrested. People were thrown to the ground, police officers had their boots on people’s faces, they had their knees on people’s backs. They really scraped up a few people who got arrested with me.”
After spending a sleepless night in jail, Thia was released at six the next morning and went to court, but the police station had accidentally misplaced her papers. Although she did not have a trial and was thus not charged, Thia comments that her being tried is quite unlikely, as most protesters’ charges were reduced to civil infractions, which are comparable to speeding tickets.
Thia plans to continue her support for greater racial equality. Last night in the Boston Commons, she protested for Eric Garner, a black, unarmed man who was, as many believe, unjustly murdered by Staten Island police. Next week, on December 13th, she is going to a another protest in New York City for Michael Brown.
Reflecting on why she chooses to protest, Thia says, “Black men have been murdered for decades by the police and nothing has been effective in stopping [the violence]. Mike Brown and Eric Garner are currently the faces of the movement, but [police brutality]… is a pattern; there are thousands of black people who have been murdered this way and who have gotten no justice. Police may protect you, but they don’t protect everyone. Because I feel so deeply about this problem, I protested. My arrest is not gossip; it was a risk I took to stand up for what I believed in.”
Through classroom discussions, Mr. Bland’s and Mr. Ball’s recent speeches at assemblies, and day-to-day conversations between students, our community has experienced and expressed a range of emotions towards recent events surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. In these dialogues, many have expressed a desire to take action, yet they also express a feeling of helplessness, of an inability to create a true impact. However, Thia comments that simply the name of our school at a protest could have more impact than some believe. She says, “When police officers asked me what school I went to and I said Milton Academy, many of them whistled and were shocked. Imagine the impact it would have if this well-known… school went to march and seek justice for Mike Brown and Eric Garner? Imagine if we all joined social justice organizations that worked to change the system on top of volunteering? That’s what I would encourage the community to do, because our actions could speak volumes.”
If you would like to share your thoughts about Michael Brown, Eric Garner, or other recent events pertaining to these issues, please feel free to email us. We would love to hear your thoughts.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=6617