Around 50 students gathered at Tommy Trojan Thursday evening to address their concerns about police brutality and racism following the officer-involved shooting death of Stephon “Zoe” Clark in Sacramento.
The event was hosted by ANSWER Coalition, a national organization dedicated to fighting racism, and supported by various campus organizations, including the Black Student Assembly and the Young Democratic Socialists of America at USC.
“[Clark] was shot at 20 times and eight of them hit him, six of which hit his back,” said Kameron Hurt, an organizer with the ANSWER Coalition. “It was a very grotesque and brutal murder that is inspiring people across the country and we’re just one drop in the rain storm that’s happening against this injustice that seems to never end.”
On March 18, officers believed that Clark had used a “toolbar” to break a window into a resident’s house. Once officers were dispatched, they pursued Clark and shot him in his grandmother’s backyard, saying they believed he was carrying a firearm. Clark was carrying a cellphone.
Many who disagreed with the officers’ use of force took to social media to express their frustration. In 2018 so far, 289 people have been shot and killed by police, according to the Washington Post.
Jacob Pettis, a freshman majoring in African American studies, kicked off the rally by passing out signs with “#justiceforzoe” written on them, and leading chants with phrases such as “No justice, no peace! No racist police” and “When Trump says get back, we say fight back.”
“I encourage others to stand up and speak out as well because I feel like a lot of times with these rallies, people are too afraid to speak out,” Pettis said. “They’ll come to support in numbers but they won’t really have the courage to speak up and give a speech.”
Former Undergraduate Student Government Senator Preston Fregia and Julia Wallace, a local activist who formerly served on the South Central Neighborhood Council, also spoke at the rally.
“Stephon Clark is one of the many people that have become [just] names to us,” Wallace said in her speech. “They were taken down by the police … They’re taking us out and counting on us to be afraid of them and intimidated by them. The fact that we’re here shows how we’re unafraid and willing to go against them.”
Many of the speakers discussed inequality present on campus, from racial profiling by DPS and LAPD to how tuition increases hinder low-income students’ access to higher education.
“This is just the beginning,” Fregia said. “It will get much worse. The fighting against racism is almost apparent in humanity to dominate one another. I think right now, what we can do in this moment, is to challenge ourselves to have that moral awakening that we will all fundamentally change the human experience.”
Toward the end of the rally, Hurt invited audience members to share their experiences with police harassment or racial profiling, and explain why they attended the rally.
“If you think about the Black Panthers and if you think about Harriet Tubman, many of those people didn’t have many titles behind their name,” Wallace said in her speech. “Yet, they made a change and decided that they were no longer going to tolerate it. We can decide right now, tonight that we’re going to say no more. We’re going to end it and end it for good.”