City Desk

D.C. Residents Rally for Michael Brown: “If You’re Right Here Right Now, You Need to Do Something”


If his own friend hadn't just been shot in the head, Justice Woods might not have even shown up to last night's Michael Brown rally.

The recent Howard University graduate had work Thursday evening, and wasn't planning on taking the night off. But scrolling through Instagram, he saw a picture of a bloodied and bandaged Mya Aaten-White—a fellow Howard grad and friend with whom he had lunch, drank, and shared classes. White was reportedly shot in the head while protesting in Ferguson, Mo., following the death of Brown, an unarmed teenager shot by police in the St. Louis suburb last week. The exact details surrounding Aaten-White's shooting are still unknown, but Woods says he heard she underwent surgery and, luckily, seems to be doing OK.

"I'm angry," he said.

Woods was one of more than a thousand people who attended a Thursday night rally at Malcolm X Park for Brown and other victims of police brutality, organized by activists and local social justice groups as part of national moment of silence. Participants chanted "Black lives matter" and "Hands up, don't shoot." One person carried a sign that read, "I cannot believe I still have to protest this shit!!"

But Woods, like some others in attendance, thought the rally felt a bit disjointed, its message unclear. So he stood up, wearing a Howard University shirt and holding an American flag, and tried to compel the crowd to act.

"If you're right here right now, you need to do something," he said, adding that even talking about the injustices and sharing statistics that show how black Americans are subjected to arrests and police brutalities is a start.

Others in attendance felt that simply being at the rally was a start.

"We're really just trying to make a difference and the first step is to be united," said Barien White, a Hampton University student carrying a Trayvon Martin sign who came to D.C. for the rally with his brother and some friends. "The masses that are here are here for a united reason."

When the Malcolm X Park rally concluded, some attendees hurried to Howard University's campus to attend a vigil—a much more somber event. There, professors and students leaders spoke on the steps of Frederick Douglass Memorial Hall, the same one where Stokely Carmichael stood and the black power movement is said to have started.

The hundreds in attendance lit candles for their "fellow brothers" who had been killed at the hands of oppressive governments and systems. They lit candles for Michael BrownTrayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, and for those who died for slavery, "for brothers just like us."

Students noted that this week is Howard's freshmen move-in, and that Brown was supposed to start college this week. Woods also spoke at the Howard vigil, recalling how he had met Mya Aaten-White years earlier at a Jena 6 rally on campus.

"Don't have the same thing happen to you," he warned. "Don't let your friend get shot in the head before you do something."

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Tbonebullets

    Apparently the officer's testimony needs to be given a bit more credit, given the recent developments. A tragedy, certainly. But not yet time for firm judgment against the officer, though it looks really incriminating against him based on what we know.

  • GoldCoastKid

    Hey black people in DC!!!
    While you're busy marching and holding hands about Ferguson there's been 21 shootings of black people by black people here in DC. Ever think of marching for our own black on black MURDERS? Or is it only when white people kill us?

  • DC Native

    What a bunch of misplaced energy. If all of this energy was spent parenting and teaching the youth to respect authority, speak and dress appropriately, and value education, most of these problems would vanish. But victimology continues to be the clarion call, although it clearly isn't working. If Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin are getting candles lit beside Martin Luther King, we have seriously backslid.

  • Corky

    Goldcoast--Have you forgotten Relisha Rudd? Thousands of people rallied for her. But anyway, you're just trying to change the subject or draw some false equivalency between street crime and the questionable behavior of a trained law enforcement official that is supposed to know that people have civil rights and that you don't shoot unarmed teenagers with their hands up in the head. But maybe that is too much for you to grasp.

  • Typical DC BS

    Maybe folks should keep up with the news and take their OWN advice - stop with the false equivalency and wake up to the FACT that black-on-black street crime is a FAR GREATER issue in the black community BY FAR than bizarre cases like Michael Brown's, which seems to be turning out FAR DIFFERENT than the initial bloviating by the "community/eyewitnesses". Funny how when more of the story is revealed, lil Micheal Brown and his crony aren't the choir boys his folks have been insisting they are, and that all the "shot in the back/hands in the air" are LIES.

  • Let’s Get Real

    Perry Stein, Meridian Hill Park is the name of this location. You can learn more about Meridian Hill Park on the National Park Service website.

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