Raritan Valley students rally against racism at ‘die-in’

BRANCHBURG – For three minutes they lay outstretched on the cold concrete of the courtyard of Raritan Valley Community College.

And then 11 times they chanted, “I can’t breathe,” a dramatic reminder of what Eric Garner said 11 times before he died because of a choke hold given to him by a police officer who was trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street.

The two dozen people finally stood after their outlines were traced in chalk, a symbolic crime-scene representation of their solidarity with unarmed black men who have been killed by police.

Like thousands on campuses across the country on Thursday, a group of Raritan Valley Community College students and teachers expressed outrage against unwarranted police violence by staging a “die-in.”

The rally, which drew close to 40 people, also carried the message that racism still is prevalent in American culture, despite media assertions, one professor said, that America is a “post-racism society.”

Andrea Vaccaro, an assistant professor of English as a Second Language and an organizer of the event, said she was “impressed” with the turnout on a blustery afternoon at the end of the semester.

Vaccaro, who said the “die-in” was organized in a just a few days through an email blast, said it will be up to the students to decide whether they want to remain active, organize more events and maintain a campus dialogue on racism.

Carl Lindskoog, a history professor, said the event was more than a “die-in” and invoked the words from student protests nearly a half-century ago.

“It’s a teach-in and a speak-out,” he said .

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