By Justin Finch
BRYN MAWR, Pa., (CBS) — More than 100 student demonstrators staged a march and “die-in” in downtown Bryn Mawr Monday night.
The students were from Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore, Villanova and nearby schools.
For four-and-a-half minutes they laid on the ground in silence in tribute to unarmed, black Ferguson teen Mike Brown at the corner of Lancaster Street and Elliott Avenue.
From there, the demonstrations moved back towards the Bryn Mawr campus with stops that included Haverford College.
“What they are doing today, in their protests all over the country, is not only laying a foundation for change now, but also for those yet unborn,” said Rep. W. Curtis Thomas.
“They are out in the streets showing us what courage looks like,” added newly-elected Philadelphia NAACP Chapter President Rodney Muhammed.
The meeting was called by Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, who said she organized it immediately after fielding dozens of calls from concerned constituents.
“People were calling and saying, ‘what are we going to do?’ There was this mass [outcry] across the city that wanted to know where are our elected officials on this issue.”
As more demonstrations are organized locally and across the country, the panel hoped that the shows of peaceful protests would help start a conversation about resetting relations between police and law enforcement.
“We have an opportunity to take these situations in Philadelphia, in Ferguson, in New York, and in Ohio as a teaching moment to deal with the question, ‘where do we go from here after the protests stop and after press conferences end,” Rep. Thomas asked the panel.
Former Philadelphia Police Officer and current Guardian Civic League President Rochelle Bilal said members of her organization were surprised that grand juries in Missouri and New York did not bring charges against the officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
She told the panel that the actions of a few officers does not speak for most.
“We don’t paint every police officer with the same brush in reference to what goes on here, but we have some that does what they want to do.”
State officials said legislation is in the pipeline regarding police tactics, but could not comment in detail before the start of the new session.
“We’re encouraging all of the law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania to adopt polices banning the chokehold, and other forms of excessive force,” said Brandon Flood, executive director of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. He said lawmakers plan to consult state law enforcement agencies in drafting their policies.
The panel said they will share their recommendations with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who is also co-chairing the White House’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
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