With only their thin white coats to shield them from the chilly temperatures, more than 50 Yale School of Medicine students gathered in front of Sterling Hall of Medicine on Dec. 10 to protest the recent deaths of unarmed black men in confrontations with police.
As students and onlookers arrived for the event at noon, student organizers—wearing yellow vests and signs that read “Indict the System” and “Black Lives Matter” — handed out slips of paper explaining the purpose and plan for the “die-in.” The white coats, they explained, were symbols of their privilege and also a sign of their solidarity with thousands of medical school students who staged simultaneous protests at more than 70 medical schools nationwide.
“We stand in solidarity with protestors across our nation and world who are taking a stand against systemic racism and police violence,” said student organizer Jessica Minor. “This is a public health issue, and above all, this is a human rights issue.”
To underscore their perspective as future health care providers, some held placards with health-related messages, such as “Black infant mortality is twice that of whites” and “Blacks are less likely to be put on transplant lists.”
After opening remarks, the students held hands, chanting “We can’t breathe” — the final words of unarmed chokehold victim Eric Garner — 11 times, with rising intensity and speed. Then they lay down on the ground for a total of 4.5 minutes, representing the number of hours that Michael Brown was left on the street after being fatally shot in Ferguson, Missouri. This event, and others across the country, were also held in honor of International Human Rights Day.