Saturday, October 20, 2007

What democracy looks like


Mario M. Henderson

Special to the Sentinel

October 20, 2007

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass once said, "Those who profess to favor freedom , and yet depreciate agitation . . . want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters."

Martin Lee Anderson was videotaped being hit, kicked and dragged by seven guards. They were also later shown covering his mouth and forcing him to inhale ammonia capsules as a nurse stood by, watching.

It was his first day -- and his last day -- in a Florida juvenile boot camp.

The not-guilty verdicts of the eight Bay County boot-camp employees charged with the aggravated manslaughter of 14-year-old Anderson are beyond comprehension.

That's why 300 of us marched on the Capitol in Tallahassee and blocked two major intersections in the city during rush hour in response. Among the marchers were students from Florida A&M and Florida State universities, as well as Tallahassee Community College, in conjunction with the Student Coalition for Justice.

Tallahassee students and many people throughout Florida and this country continue pressing forward -- even though the sentiment among many is that justice has escaped the Anderson family after a jury in 90 minutes found that there was no wrongdoing by the boot-camp employees.

I am reminded that great changes and events have often started with protest. Colonists used organized protests many times against Great Britain in America's early days. During the civil-rights movement, nonviolent protests were triggered by students and spread throughout the South. College students also helped to initiate protests against the war during the Vietnam era. Many students are just as vocal today about the war in Iraq.

I am encouraged and moved by the actions of my peers to let the people of Florida and this country know that an injustice has not been corrected -- that protests against the injustices done to Martin Lee Anderson are the truly democratic thing to do. Agitating for justice is the right thing to do.

We are echoing Douglass' words: We are appreciating the rain and its thunder and lightning. We are revering the ocean and the awful roar of its many waters.

We are confident in the fact that this is what democracy looks like.

Mario M. Henderson, 20, of Daytona Beach is a junior majoring in political science at Florida A&M University.

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