Activist DeRay McKesson stresses to end police violence

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Photo by Cody Glassett

Protesting is not the answer, but it creates space for the answer and forces people to deal with things that would otherwise be ignored, according to civil rights activist DeRay McKesson.

During Political Action Week Oct. 23-25, which strives to increase civic engagement for students, McKesson discussed the early days of Black Lives Matter, which began in Ferguson, Mo and his nonprofit organization, Campaign Zero. His nonprofit’s goal is to end police violence “by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability.”

Jaxon Olsen, chief justice of UVUSA, decided for the event to focus on grassroots movements as more millennials are getting involved in them. “DeRay has heavy experience with organizing. He has experience with Black Lives Matter, he’s worked with “Teach for America,” Olsen said

McKesson first became involved with BLM after watching news coverage on the officer-involved shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. He took a leave of absence from his job in Minneapolis to hit the streets and protest Brown’s death.

“Change happens when everybody comes together,” said McKesson. “I think about the protests in Ferguson, where regular people decided the world could be a better place, and we made it happen. We changed the conversation across the country.”

During the protests, McKesson recognizes that people were upset at the civil unrest happening and said that part of the movement’s goals was to disrupt people’s lives.

“We wanted people to be mad, we were totally fine with you being pissed off sitting in traffic because we were we were pissed off that people got killed,” McKesson said. “That was part of our work in the beginning, disrupting your life so that we could help you see that our lives were also disrupted.”

In 2016, McKesson along with BLM activist Brittany Packnett had a meeting with former president Barack Obama and other politicians to talk about policing that lasted more than four hours.

McKesson said all organizing is relationship building and the use of social media to create relationships is essential.

Instead of fighting or resisting the higher education system, McKesson recommends that students come out of college a “better reader, writer, and thinker” to become an efficient activist or community organizer.

 “You have to come out of here being able to critically think about the world, and engage in the world deeper,” he said  “You also should make this place a better place.”

 McKesson added, “the civil rights movement was born out of schools and churches, “so we clearly know that schools are an incredible place for young people to organize, it’s important though that [students] get skills out of the [college] too.”