Ferguson solidarity: NYC students walk out over Michael Brown killing

Chanting “We need to keep fighting” and “Ferguson everywhere,” high school students staged a walkout Monday afternoon in protest of the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown killing in the Missouri town at the hands of a police officer.

A crowd of a few hundred protesters, mostly young students, marched from Union Square to Times Square, where they held a four-minute moment of silence for Brown, a black unarmed teenager who was fatally shot during an encounter with Officer Darren Wilson, who was not indicted by a grand jury.

They wove in and out of blocks, making their way up Third Avenue and the west to Seventh Avenue. After sitting in Times Square, they again marched north to 48th Street and over to Ninth Avenue before coming back around to where they started.

Shawn Smith, an 18-year-old from Crown Heights who walked out of the New York Harbor School, said he joined the protest for “being someone like Michael Brown, who can face the same thing he did at any given time by some cop who doesn’t know better.”

“I feel like doing this can really show the cops that we mean business and that we won’t take any type of mistreatment from them,” Smith said.

One student at Bard High School Early College in Manhattan said fliers were handed out at the school to build support for the protest march.

The school’s principal, Dr. Michael Lerner, confirmed there was a student walkout, but was unable to say how many left to participate in the protest.

“They’re engaged young people who see this as something they’re concerned about,” he said of the protest participants. “It’s not surprising to see students all over the city taking part in this.”

Lerner said the absences are unexcused, but many of the students even returned to school later in the day for tests or classes.

The Department of Education did not have a count on how many schools had students walk out, but a spokesperson said they were closely monitoring the protest.

The DOE has provided guidance to schools to help students express themselves following the Ferguson decision, including assembly programs, counselors and meeting with student leaders, the spokesperson said.

At least two protesters and a press photographer were arrested, though charges against them are unclear. Protesters marched in traffic and on sidewalks from Union Square to a sit-in at Times Square.

The young protesters were applauded by a few seasoned New Yorkers who saw the march.

“We’re thrilled they’re out here. This will make a change for sure,” Eva-Lee Baird, a 74-year-old Upper West Sider, said. (Alison Fox, and Ivan Pereira)