Progressive NAACP holds vigil at Bell Tower

The event comes in the wake of recent decisions not to indict officers involved in the deaths of Eric Garner in New York City and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Attendees at the vigil held candles and took part in a moment of silence. | JENNY KERRIGAN TTN
Attendees at the vigil held candles and took part in a moment of silence. | JENNY KERRIGAN TTN

About 200 people gathered at the Bell Tower around 6 p.m. Tuesday for a vigil organized by the Progressive NAACP to remember African-American victims of police violence.

Representatives from organizations like the Black Student Union and Queer People of Color spoke, as some attendees held candles, balloons, or glow sticks. 40 victims’ names were read and the balloons were released before a moment of silence.

Penda Howell, the president of Temple’s chapter of Progressive NAACP, said similar events were happening nationwide.

“It’s our responsibility as young leaders and as future leaders to ensure that we’re doing our part to recognize this and to change what we can,” Howell said.

“We wanted to be peaceful,”  said Isaiah Gaymon, events coordinator of Progressive NAACP. “The main thing we wanted to do was to remember these people and honor [them].”

“It’s just love, and I’m just speechless about the whole thing,” Gaymon added. “It’s just the beginning of us coming together as a school.”

Bisa Lindsey, political action chair for Progressive NAACP, said she wanted to emphasize the importance of remembering victims’ names.

“I found that when I was doing the research how important the names are to getting recognition to the issues,” Lindsey said. “So many lives have been lost that have not been reported… There are people who [we] technically could not commiserate and mourn because we didn’t have their names.”

“It’s just so painful that a life is lost and we’ll just never know about it,” Lindsey added.

Students in attendance said they appreciated the opportunity to show their support.

“What’s going on isn’t okay,” Colin Wilker, a junior accounting major, said. “It’s an injustice and [it] needs to be shown that we’re united together for the cause…We need to show that we can be peaceful and show our support against this and what’s happening around the nation at this time.”

Temple Student Government leaders attended the vigil as well.

“The way that Temple students have conducted themselves over the past two weeks has been phenomenal, and our voices are definitely heard not only on a local level, not only in the city, but on a national level,” Student Body President Ray Smeriglio said.

Smeriglio mentioned that Temple Police and Philadelphia police in the 22nd police district, which includes areas near Main Campus west of Broad Street, would be the first to test wearing body cameras, something many protesters have called for after the recent incidents.

Jalen Blot, director of campus life and diversity, said the vigil was “a good step in the right direction.”

“It starts here, it starts with getting the word out, it starts with mobilizing people, but after mobilization, we need to think about organization,” Blot said. “I think those things are the next steps coming together.”

“I’m really proud and I commend the black student leaders as well as TSG in being a part of making sure that in addition to all lives mattering, black lives mattering,” Blot added.

Howell said university administrators were also invited.

“It’s [the university’s] responsibility to act on behalf of all students, especially the students who are here as minority populations, so for them to speak would definitely be beneficial,” he said.

The vigil comes in the wake of the Nov. 24 decision not to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Another prominent case is that of Eric Garner, who was stopped in New York City on July 17 for selling untaxed cigarettes. During his arrest, an officer placed Garner in a chokehold that eventually killed him. The circumstances of both deaths and the decisions not to indict the officers involved in either case have sparked protests around the country in recent weeks.

The vigil wrapped up by 7 p.m.

Lian Parsons can be reached at or on Twitter @Lian_Parsons.

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