AUSTIN (KXAN) — After what appeared to be a peaceful evening of rallies and protests across the country to bring awareness to the recent shooting deaths of two black men by police officers, a horrific scene unfolded in downtown Dallas during that city’s rally Thursday. While it’s not known why two snipers started shooting and killing officers during the rally, it is clear the emotion and tension from the high-profile shootings this week have struck a nerve.Alton Sterling
In Baton Rouge, La. on Tuesday, Alton Sterling, 37, was confronted by police and shot after an anonymous caller said he threatened someone with a gun outside a convenience store where he was selling homemade CDs. Cellphone video taken by a community activists shows two officers pinning Sterling to the ground, someone yelled, “He’s got a gun! Gun! and gunfire erupted seconds later. At a news conference, the Baton Rouge police chief said Sterling was armed.
The following day, a Facebook Live video documenting the moments after Philando Castile was fatally shot by a Minnesota officer reverberated across social media and the nation. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, along with her 4-year-old child, were in the car with Castile when he was pulled over for a broken taillight. In the video, Castile can be seen in the driver seat, slumped over with blood seeping through his white shirt. Reynolds explained Castile told the officer he was armed and had a concealed carry permit but when he reached for his wallet, she says the officer shot him four times, killing him.
From Poland, President Barack Obama addressed the nation about this week’s deadly shootings and how the incidents are not isolated.
“When incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our fellow citizenry that feels as if it’s because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same,” Obama said. “And that hurts. And that should trouble all of us.”
During his speech, it was almost prophetic when he mentioned how these shootings have increased tensions with law enforcement in some communities and neighborhoods. “When people say ‘black lives matter,’ that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter,” Obama said, referring to uniformed officers. “That just means all lives matter.”
In Austin, as in numerous other cities across the U.S., the Austin Justice Coalition gathered at Givens Park on the city’s eastside to hold a rally and vigil for Sterling and Castile. The Austin vigil, while peaceful, was wrought with emotion.
“I just felt the need to be here and support the people that are hurting because a lot of this touches close to home and people have had friends and family killed by police officers or harassed,” says Jordan, who didn’t want KXAN to include his last name. “Even myself, I’ve been thrown to the ground at 15 years old for looking like someone, so it hits really close to home when incidents like this happen.”
In Portland, police did arrest a man who displayed a gun during a rally. Police say no shots were fired.With additional reporting by Associated Press