College protesters

Sha-Nel Henderson, president of the Black Student Union at IUPUI, leads a crowd mostly college students at a protest June 19. (Photo/Breanna Cooper)

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Dreasjon Reed — the names differ, but for many, the circumstances appear to remain all too familiar.

A ripple effect took place throughout the country as news of the killings spread in many communities.

COVID-19 restrictions didn’t deter protesters in Indianapolis from gathering throughout the city. Following Dreasjon Reed’s death May 6, only a city-wide curfew could slow down the momentum.

Frustrated Black college students make up a large portion of the protesters.

“We’re living in a pandemic and people are outside in large crowds, which is highly recommended against,” said Joyza Johnson, a junior at IUPUI. “People are out here protesting regardless of the risks. It really goes to show that people are tired and ready for change.”

Reed, an Indianapolis native, was shot by an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) officer after he fled from his car. Contrasting opinions circled throughout the Black community as families and friends discussed the tragic event.

Despite hearing different things from family and friends, Ball State University student Jaylen Moore described Reed’s death in one word: wrong.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of people say that he shouldn't have run away, and I don’t agree with that,” Moore said. “His actions probably resulted from fear: fear of being incarcerated and fear of interacting with police. Although he could have acted differently, it still doesn’t leave room for overkill.”

Moore added although recent events have made him more aware of his own behavior, people like Breonna Taylor didn’t break the law.

“She was in her home sleeping, so it’s scary to think that you can still be killed for nothing,” he said.

In recent weeks, many of the protests in Indianapolis took place in the downtown area — just a few minutes away from IUPUI’s campus.

Jenee Johnson, a senior at IUPUI, described life at the predominantly white institution (PWI) to be difficult during times like this.

“As someone who attends a PWI, I understand the pressures of being the only Black girl in science classes, and having somebody not want to be my lab partner because of it,” Johnson said.

Differences between the waking lives of white classmates are like night and day from Johnson’s point of view.

African American students aren’t the only ones who find it difficult to cope, however. Others, such as those of direct African and Caribbean descent, aren’t exempt from the discrimination.

“We can put all of this work in, go to school, get our degrees and try to succeed, but at the end of the day our lives still might be taken,” said Karl Nkemzi, a mechanical engineering major at IUPUI.

Nkemzi, a Cameroonian-American, highlighted the effectiveness of protesting. In his opinion, the constant media coverage of protesting forces many to take a deeper look at themselves.

With protests becoming smaller and less frequent in Indianapolis, many are wondering what’s next.

Sha-Nel Henderson, an IUPUI senior and president of the Black Student Union, believes the answer is two-fold.

“The next steps for the Black community, from my perspective, should be strengthening our communication and maintaining hope,” she said. “Without hope, all of this is pointless.”

Contact newsroom intern Mikaili Azziz at 317-924-5143. Follow her on Twitter @mikailiazziz.

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