Freshman RA Justin Giuliano arrested and jailed in Ferguson, Missouri over Fall Break.
Jenny Hudalla | Editor-in-Chief
Jared Nelson | Sports Editor
Published in Issue 4 of The Clarion year 2014-2015
It was after 3 a.m. on Oct. 12, and a bleary-eyed Jus n Giuliano was staring at the inside of a jail cell in Ferguson, Missouri. Just a few hours earlier, his a empt at a peaceful sit-in outside of a QuikTrip gas station on had been met with police officers dressed in riot gear.
“They formed a wall around us,” said Giuliano, who had linked arms with 18 others in protest of the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot multiple times by white police officer Darren Wilson. “[There were] probably 100 guys with riot shields, batons, mace, tear gas and a BearCat armored vehicle. They kept saying, ‘This is unlawful assembly,’ and every me they said that, they’d come closer.”
Giuliano, a senior sociocultural studies major and freshman RA, made the nine-hour drive to participate in Ferguson October, a national protest against police bias and violence toward communities of color that happened to coincide with Bethel’s fall break.
From Oct. 10-13, Giuliano joined hundreds of others in marches, rallies and peaceful acts of civil dis- obedience aimed at securing the indictment of Wilson and raising awareness for race-related police brutality.
Besides the marches and rallies, thousands of people came to Ferguson October to listen to speakers and engage in academic discussion about issues of black liberation on and police brutality.
According to Giuliano, one of the most powerful moments of the event took place on “Moral Monday,” when he marched with about 500 protesters and clergy members to the Ferguson Police Department as a memorial service for Brown.
“The clergy would say [to the police officers], ‘We understand you guys are human and trying to do your job, but you’re beating people, you’re killing people, and that’s not okay,’” Giuliano said. “It was powerful, because it was a message of love.”
Though the officers did not respond to the protesters’ requests for repentance, Giuliano said the crowd joined together in singing hymns before many of the clergy members crossed the police line and were arrested in an act of civil disobedience.
“It shows the public that it means a lot, and people are willing to go to jail for this,” Giuliano said. “This is a justice issue, and I’m willing to stand up for it. More than 90 protesters were arrested in the various events that day.”
According to Giuliano, allowing himself to be incarcerated as an act of civil disobedience is effective in raising support for the issue because it draws the public’s attention on in a peaceful way.
“The media portrays protesters as violent looters, and that hasn’t been the case. We gave the media a good, accurate view of the protesters,” he said.
Giuliano’s own arrest was an experience he’ll not soon forget. Now known as the QuikTrip 19, Giuliano and his fellow protesters had planned to observe four and a half minutes of silence in remembrance of the four and a half hours that Brown’s body was left in the street a er he was killed.
Giuliano said he knew “some- thing crazy was going to happen” when police officers piled out of an armored vehicle and closed in on the demonstrators just before 2 a.m.
“They hit people with batons, they maced people,” Giuliano re- called. “They had grenade launchers that shot tear gas at people . . . apparently, after we were [arrested and] put in vans, they kept going after protesters and moving forward and shooing tear gas and saying, ‘You must leave the premises.’”
Meanwhile, the QuikTrip 19 were transported to the police station and held in a joint cell for 16 hours. When the protesters asked an officer how they could work together to stop police brutality, Giuliano said the officer pinned the problem not on the justice system, but on the crime within the black community.
“We were really discouraged by his comments,” Giuliano said. “Instead of realizing that police brutality is a problem, he blamed the victim. For the African American community that’s usually brutalized by police, he’s saying, ‘You guys are the problem.’ Not the police, not the institutionalized racism, not the state sanctioned violence that we have committed against you.”
The QuikTrip 19 were released at 5:30 p.m. Sunday after a relief fund specially for protesters paid the bail, which was $150 per person. Although Giuliano returned to Bethel less than two days after his arrest, the transition back to school has not been without hurdles.
“It’s been difficult, because fighting police brutality and fighting institutional racism are things I’m passionate about,Giuliano said. “How do you go from a weekend where you’re protesting, getting arrested and having these deep conversations, back to school? It’s just a different level.”
While Giuliano grew up in Chicago and has felt more victimized than protected by police officers for most of his life, most Bethel students can’t resonate with his experience.
“A lot of people grew up in Arden Hills or a predominantly white town . . . police brutality is something that’s nonexistent to them,” Giuliano said. “So it’s hard to dialogue with them. They don’t understand that and don’t see it as an issue, and so coming back, people are like, ‘I’ve never experienced what that’s like.’”
Giuliano traces the Bethel community’s lack of awareness about police brutality to its general discomfort regarding issues of race.
“That’s been the most difficult thing for me — not having people understand exactly what the weekend was about and understand that police brutality is real. It’s not just something you see on TV, but something that happened to me this weekend and something that has happened to me in the past.”
Aside from helping to raise awareness of police violence in Missouri, Giuliano hopes that his time in Ferguson will spark conversations on Bethel’s campus.
“Hypothetically speaking, there is a ‘Ferguson’ near your home, in your city,” Giuliano said. “This is a nationwide epidemic. It’s time to get involved and wake up.”