Chanting, “’Hands up – don’t shoot,” around 70 people marched through downtown Savannah on Saturday in support of protests in Ferguson, Mo. A police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in the St. Louis suburb two weeks ago.
The controversial – and sometimes violent – clashes between police and protestors in Ferguson appear to be winding down. In Savannah, demonstrators gathered in Reynolds Square on Saturday morning for a march organized by Savannah State University students. Before setting off, Ayana Tiller and Ja’Andra Wheeler – both students at Savannah State– reminded marchers that the plan was to hold a peaceful demonstration.
Savannah-Chatham Police were on hand to help participants cross busy streets. Marchers proceeded, without incident, down Bay Street and through the City Market area and back. Their hand-made signs carried slogans like, “Don’t Shoot,” and “Hands Up, Guns Down.”
Brian Salters, 25, graduated from Savannah State last year. He said he hopes the march will raise awareness of what he sees as unequal treatment of African American young men by police.
“I just want to be treated fairly,” he said. “I don’t want to have to worry about as soon as the cops roll up behind me, I’m like, ‘Oh, shoot, do I need to pull over? Do I need to stop? Are they going to say anything to me?’”
Salters said he’s been detained by police who thought he resembled a suspect in a crime and has been questioned by police while walking down the street.
Cytra Kinte, a business student at Savannah Tech, said African Americans shouldn’t have to live their daily lives in fear.
“There’s no reason for us to be afraid to take the trash out,” she said. “People get shot for…random stuff that doesn’t make any sense.”
The march ended in a green space along Bay Street, where participants took turns making short speeches and sang a few rounds of the protest anthem, “We Shall Overcome.”
Savannah State’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is also hosting a discussion on Monday evening, “Michael Brown, Police Brutality and Changing the Image of Black Men in America.” It runs from 5-8 p.m. in room 115 of the Social Sciences Building on the SSU campus.