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'Ferguson is everywhere': More crowds demand action as Obama lays out plan

By Holly Yan, CNN
updated 6:25 PM EST, Tue December 2, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • College and high school students across the country protest and hold "die-ins"
  • Obama outlines a plan, including a new task force and adding 50,000 body cameras for police
  • Attorney General Eric Holder is heckled while giving a speech at Martin Luther King's church

(CNN) -- Now this is about much more than Michael Brown and a grand jury's decision not to indict the officer who shot him.

From Harvard to Texas A&M to Stanford, college students nationwide have walked out of classes or staged "die-ins" to decry police violence and racial profiling.

Police protect Wilson from death threats
Ferguson protesters interrupt Holder
Obama vows 'follow through' after Ferguson

They've been joined by demonstrators across the country who say they won't stop clamoring for change until they see real action.

And more and more, the protesters reflect a wide array of races and backgrounds.

"We come from a privileged background, and it's easy for many of our friends to deny what's going on in this country," one white prep school student told CNN affiliate WABC as he protested Monday in Manhattan. "But we feel it's our duty to speak up for what's right -- speak up for justice."

Outside Harvard Law School, a sea of students lay on the cold bricks to draw attention to Brown's death. Others did the same in St. Louis and in front of the Justice Department in Washington, mimicking the way Brown's body lay on a street for 4 1/2 hours.

In cities across the country, one sign was so prolific that the words on it proved true:

"Ferguson is everywhere."

Moving forward

So how does the country go from die-ins and walk-outs to actual change?

After meeting with law enforcement officials and activists Monday, President Barack Obama outlined several new efforts.

"I'm going to be proposing some new community policing initiatives that will significantly expand funding and training for local law enforcement, including up to 50,000 additional body-worn cameras for law enforcement agencies," Obama said.

The president addressed concerns about "whether we are militarizing domestic law enforcement unnecessarily." He ordered a review after the widely criticized heavy-handed police response to Ferguson protesters in August, and that review suggests largely leaving intact federal programs that provide surplus military equipment to local police departments.

But Obama plans to issue an executive order to tighten some of the controls over the programs to better track equipment provided to law enforcement agencies.

Washington University students march through a student lounge on the St. Louis campus as part of a nationwide walkout on Monday, December 1. Activists called for students to walk out of school and employees to walk off the job nationwide to protest police violence. A grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in the August shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown has prompted demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country. See photos of the unrest in Ferguson. Washington University students march through a student lounge on the St. Louis campus as part of a nationwide walkout on Monday, December 1. Activists called for students to walk out of school and employees to walk off the job nationwide to protest police violence. A grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in the August shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown has prompted demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country. See photos of the unrest in Ferguson.
Ferguson protests across U.S.
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Photos: Ferguson protests across U.S. Photos: Ferguson protests across U.S.

The president also announced a new task force, chaired by the Philadelphia police commissioner and a criminology professor, that will reach out to law enforcement, community activists and other stakeholders to come up with best practices on creating accountability and trust between communities and police.

That task force must present their recommendations to Obama in 90 days.

The president admitted than in the past, task forces have fallen short.

But "this time will be different, because the President of the United States is deeply vested in making it different," Obama said.

"In the two years I have remaining as President, I'm going to make sure that we follow through."

Holder heckled

In the first leg of his national dialogue, Attorney General Eric Holder met with community members at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church -- where Martin Luther King Jr. preached.

Holder's speech was interrupted by a group of protesters chanting, "No justice, no peace" and "We have nothing to lose but our chains."

But the attorney general didn't criticize the hecklers. In fact, he praised them.

"There will be a tendency on the part of some to condemn what we just saw, but we should not," Holder said.

"What we saw there was a genuine expression of concern and involvement. And it is through that level of involvement, that level of concern and I hope a level of perseverance and commitment, that change ultimately will come. And so let me be clear, let me be clear, I ain't mad atcha, all right?"

Complete coverage of what's happening in Ferguson

CNN's Evan Perez and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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