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Black Student Union marches to end gun violence in black community


Marchers listen to Breona Chandler recall her encounter with gun violence in her community during the Peace Without a Piece march Dec. 6 at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.  Haley Klezmer

After Kemontie Johnson, 21, was shot and killed at an off-campus party IU fraternity party in the early hours of Oct. 28, Janey Griffin, vice president of the Black Student Union, said BSU thought it was time to come together in solidarity against gun violence in the black community. 

A group of around 20 students, led by BSU, marched through cold wind and wet snow Thursday from the Sample Gates to the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center. Most were students from the Black Student Union but a few others joined as well.

“We want to show support to those who were affected by the loss, as well as those who have lost people or been affected by gun violence,” Griffin said. “As a marginalized group, we have to stand with one another.”

Freshman Deisdy Rodriguez said she decided to come to the march because she believes the black community does not get enough attention when they are affected by gun violence.

“Gun violence is so normal to the black community and I think it needs more attention because like I wrote here," Rodriguez said, pointing to the sign she had made. "It’ll be overlooked if it’s not addressed.”

Rodriguez is a law and public policy major and has already gone to several demonstrations for various causes, one of her first being a walk-out at her high school to demonstrate against gun violence in schools. 

She said March for Our Lives, a student-led movement that advocated for more gun-violence prevention measures, got a lot of attention. But, she said black communities who experience gun violence on a regular basis do not.

When the group arrived at Neal-Marshall, junior Breona Chandler told the crowd about the time she was shot in the thigh by a stray bullet. 

The summer before she started her freshman year of college, Chandler said she was walking to her dad’s house during the day and stopped in a park to talk to friends. As she was walking away, a car pulled up and she heard gunshots. She dropped to the ground instinctively.

“When I heard the shooting stop and the car pulled off, I got up and looked around,” Chandler said. “I saw all the kids coming out of their hiding spots and all I could think to myself was ‘Thank God, no one got hit.’”

Chandler didn’t realize it, but she had been shot. As she got up, she felt a burning sensation in her upper thigh and was quickly whisked away to a hospital. The bullet had gone in and out of her leg and barely missed her spinal cord. 

“I was bitter because it wasn’t fair to me that I was shot and the guys who shot me were able to live their lives as they pleased,” Chandler said.

She said the shooters were never arrested.

“Today I stand before you to say, put the guns down,” Chandler said. “Shooting is not the answer. A bullet doesn’t have anybody’s name on it and could hit anybody.”

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