At exactly 10 minutes past noon, they all lay down and died.
Of course, the die-in in the lobby of California Western's main classroom building on February 10 was symbolic.
The large and diverse group of students, faculty, and staff lying on the floor were peacefully protesting to show solidarity for the victims of fatal police shootings, such as Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014.
The die-in was organized by the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) to precede the Spring Diversity Speaker event, Saint Louis University African-American Studies Professor Stefan Bradley's appearance at the law school to discuss his experiences as violence broke out after a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who fired the fatal shots at Brown.
"I think the die-in was a very important, relevant demonstration to have at this time in our nation's history,” said 2L Sabira Abdulhameed, the vice president of BLSA and the main organizer of the event. “The message is awareness. The message is solidarity. The message is education. We do not want to put forth messages of hate, but messages of peace, love, and working together.”
“For me it was an emotional experience, said 1L Rebecca R. Brown. “Lying on the ground put me in the position of Michael Brown. I was trying to hold back tears and thinking ‘wow’ that could have been me. That could have been my brother. It’s just not right.”
“It means a lot to be part of this,” said 3L Trashon J. Herndon, president of BLSA. “I helped put it together here on campus and I appreciate the turnout, so I’m very grateful."
As the speaker Bradley was introduced he put his hands up in the air and chanted “hands up, don’t shoot,” as the standing-room only audience joined him.
“I’ve tasted tear gas,” Bradley said, of the events he was very close to in Ferguson—including being in the crowd when they announced Officer Darren Wilson would not be prosecuted.
“Law and justice sometimes seem to be two different things,” Bradley said. “What I saw changed my opinion of this generation,” he said of the young people protesting in the streets of Ferguson. “It was electric.”
Bradley called on the law students attending to commit themselves to fixing the problems that led to the Ferguson shooting and other incidents like it.
“There are difficult days ahead,” said Bradley noting that his own generation hasn’t changed the underlying problems that have led to many controversial police shootings. “I’m sorry we haven’t fixed these problems yet. But you are our last best hope. If not you, then who’s gonna do it?”
Bradley clearly inspired many in the audience.
"He was amazing," said 1L Danasia Neal. “We need to listen more to young people like he said and to just care for the nation as a whole.“
“I think it’s really important that people acknowledge that there are some flaws that need to be revamped in our system,“ said 2L Daniel R. DeSaegher, who participated in the die-in and attended Bradley’s lecture.
“What I took away from it was our generation needs to be the one to put our foot down and say this is enough, said Rebecca Brown. “It’s going to be an ongoing story until someone said this is what we need to do to fix this problem.”
The diversity speaker is the first event leading up to Diversity Week at the law school starting on February 23, which includes cultural culinary events, a diversity debate, coffee with the dean, and a diversity speaker.
“Diversity in a law school is an announcement to the community that fairness and representation in the law are important to us,” said the law school’s Director of Diversity Services Marion Cloete. “California Western’s mission is to educate lawyers representative of our diverse society, and that means diversity is fundamental to what we do.”