Students organize demonstration raising awareness of police brutality

photo courtesy of Malik Jaiteh (@malik_who on Instagram)
Seniors Maliah Jaiteh and Xela Gunvalson present signs picturing victims of police brutality.

Connor Rahill, Editor-in-Chief

On the morning of Friday, September 25, BSM students gathered in the boulevard next to the school’s parking lot to call attention to recent police brutality, especially against people of color. Organized primarily by seniors Xela Gunvalson and Maliah Jaiteh, the demonstration started at 7:00 AM and lasted for around half an hour. 

During the demonstration, which was advertised by Instagram account @eyes_on_bsm, around 40 students, as well as a few teachers, stood in silence for eight and a half minutes in honor of George Floyd. Afterwards, speakers recalled underreported stories of victims of police brutality. “There are so many other people out there whose stories have not been told… when you hear a name that you haven’t heard before, and hear how traumatic their story was, it kind of shows you just how much this stuff happens,” Jaiteh said. 

As the demonstrators silently protested, most students held signs with the names of these victims. Towards the end of the demonstration, Gunvalson led the demonstrators in calling for justice for these individuals. While most of the mentioned victims were people of color, among them was Linden Cameron, a white 13-year-old boy with autism who was shot multiple times by police in Utah. “I just want people to know that this is much more than a ‘people of color’ problem. This is definitely an ‘everyone’ problem,” Jaiteh said.

When you hear a name that you haven’t heard before, and hear how traumatic their story was, it kind of shows you just how much this stuff happens.”

— Maliah Jaiteh

The demonstration was planned and carried out entirely by students. The organizers believed that BSM’s administration wasn’t going to address the issue of police brutality and decided that someone in the community needed to take action. “At this point, I don’t care whether or not [administration] approves of this, it’s something that needs to be done … I want this to be more of a student thing, because I feel like there’s been so much tension with students regarding this issue,” Jaiteh said.

BSM has been receiving criticism recently since a City Pages article presented detailed first hand accounts of BSM students and alumni of color experiencing racism from other students and criticized administration for their lack of action. In response to the article, BSM President Dr. Adam Ehrmantraut promised to take drastic steps to make students of color feel comfortable in BSM’s community. Gunvalson and Jaiteh want to make it clear that the demonstration is not attacking BSM or its administration. “We aren’t protesting the school… we understand that they’re trying to work through these racial issues, and thus far we’re trying to comply with them and follow their methods,” Gunvalson said. 

Gunvalson is planning on meeting with BSM’s newly founded Red Knights for Human Rights club and working with the group to organize another demonstration. “I’m going to pop into that meeting and see what that’s about and hopefully we’ll work together, because a lot of people wanted us to do something like this again,” Gunvalson said.