It’s nine P.M. on the Wednesday of dead week. A large population of Kentucky students have gathered in the William T. Young library to diligently study for finals, which begin next Monday. Because of the Kentucky game tonight, most students waited for the game to wrap up before heading to the library, because let’s be honest… Kentucky Basketball > Finals. So imagine walking into the library around 8:58. You sit your backpack on a bench right inside the door, take off your headphones and coat, stuff them inside, and begin to walk into the large, open area, where the security desk, as well as the library main desk are located. For those of you who have never been inside the library, this area stretches the main floor of the library, all the way up to the fifth floor. All floors have rails that surround openings located on each floor, allowing students to look around the entire library from each of said floors.
So, you walk into this big open area, and you are instantly aware that something is different. About fifty students are gathered in this open area. They are white, black, hispanic… all nationalities, men and women, old and young. Some are holding signs that say, “Black Lives Matter,” others are wearing T-Shirts that say, “Want to hear a joke? The American Justice System.” Some are in groups, and some stand alone. You look down at your phone, looking for a clue at all, and at 9:00 PM exactly, they all drop to the floor.
Students at the University of Kentucky staged a “die-in” tonight in the William T. Young Library to raise awareness about what they are calling the “social injustice that has been happening in America” over the past few months, meaning the death of unarmed Ferguson teen Michael Brown, and the choke hold death of Eric Garner in the Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island in New York. Students laid on the floor of the library for thirty minutes. Some stayed completely silent, others discussed their anger or confusion over the tragedies, others took snapchats and selfies.
The event was organized by three UK students. I had the chance to talk to one, Kelly Moore. She had several important things to say about the die-in, and why they planned it the way that they did. She told me that the reason that they chose Willy T. was that, “The University of Kentucky loves this building, so why not die in this building?” She also told me that the reason that this protest was so important to her was because she was “tired of not being acknowledged. Not being…represented… we’re tired of it. So we showed up, and we showed out in numbers.” The students who participated in the protest were very peaceful, and there was no yelling from bystanders, but some of the students who were not participating in the protest, but present in the library, were not happy.
Two male students, who are freshman but whose names I will keep anonymous, had a few things to say about the protest. One told me that he believed it was too late, and that the verdicts were already handed down, so nothing would change. The other student told me that the protests happening in Kentucky, at UK in particular, would do nothing to change what had happened in these other places, so they were pointless.
No matter what your opinion of the issues is, when students exercise their First Amendment rights, you have to be happy for them. Knowing what you, as an American, are allowed to do in a public venue is important for this country as a whole.