Students bring 'Hands Up, Don’t Shoot' movement to campus

Elon University’s chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. organized students, faculty and staff Tuesday for a group portrait at College Coffee to raise awareness of police shootings and controversial law enforcement practices across the United States.

Nearly 200 students, faculty and staff took part in the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" portrait in Phi Beta Kappa Commons on Aug. 26, 2014, during College Coffee.
An Elon University fraternity brought together nearly 200 members of the campus community Tuesday morning for a group photo in which everyone held their hands in the air to show solidarity with the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” Movement.

The “Hands Up” initiative has received support in many places across the country following the early August police shooting death of an 18-year-old black man in Ferguson, Mo. Members of the Sigma Delta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. scheduled the portrait at Phi Beta Kappa Commons during Elon’s first College Coffee of the fall semester. The photo included students, faculty and staff members.

“In light of recent events in Ferguson, we would like to show that Elon does not tolerate social injustice, and that we are accepting of all races, gender and all types of sexual orientation,” said Alpha Phi Alpha chapter president Justin Pierce, a senior music performance major. “We want to show our community that Elon is a place where we all belong.”

Issues of race, economics, privilege and police practices have been at the forefront of a national conversation since Aug. 9, 2014, when Michael Brown was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson. Police have indicated that the unarmed Brown was a suspect in a nearby robbery, yet questions remain about whether the officer knew that at the time of the shooting.

“It seems that the black community unintentionally instills fear in people, which makes them feel threatened,” Pierce said in remarks to the crowd. “We as a community cannot apologize that our only sin is the color of our skin.”

Pierce called for stronger police restraint when using firearms. “Life is sacred,” he said, “and we all need to treat it as such.”

The group photo is the first of two events at Elon University this week in response to the Ferguson incident. A public dialogue featuring professors and students is scheduled for Wednesday at 7:15 p.m at McKinnon Hall in the Moseley Center.