Baton Rouge Police Shooting Victim Honored At Prayer Vigil
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And, Rachel, let's just remember the protests in Dallas last night. They were organized in reaction to police-involved shootings of two African-American men this week. One of those killings took place in Baton Rouge, La. And in that city last night, hundreds of people attended a prayer vigil for the victim Alton Sterling. He is one of the men killed in an altercation with police this week. Sterling was 37 years old, shot dead in an altercation with two white police officers outside a convenience store early Tuesday morning. And since his death, protesters have demonstrated in areas across Baton Rouge, including the crime scene. As NPR's Caitlin Dickerson reports, last night dozens of faith leaders honored Sterling, as did Louisiana's governor, John Bel Edwards.
CAITLIN DICKERSON, BYLINE: A mostly black audience at the Living Faith Christian Center greeted Governor Edwards with a standing ovation. Edwards praised residents of Baton Rouge for sitting with their discomfort, frustration and anger about Alton Sterling without resorting to violence.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JOHN BEL EDWARDS: There are no simple answers. But I think we can start by working to restore trust between law enforcement and the community where maybe that trust is lacking - but while respecting and appreciating the overwhelming vast majority of professional law enforcement people who risk their lives every day to protect us.
DICKERSON: Following Edwards, more than a dozen faith leaders took to the pulpit and led the crowd in call and response. At one point, the crowd stood for an emotional rendition of "Amazing Grace." But right outside the church's front doors, the tone was drastically different.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) No justice. No peace.
DICKERSON: One woman yelled into a megaphone, now isn't the time for church. And the crowd chanted, no justice, no peace.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) No justice. No peace. No justice. No peace.
DICKERSON: Yvonne Stallings (ph) was at the vigil with her 14-year-old son. Stallings said she thought the police shootings would be best addressed through nonviolent civil disobedience.
YVONNE STALLINGS: I think it's time to go back to the civil rights era, when people did boycotts - with the bus boycott and other things - that it really changed things.
DICKERSON: She said she came to the event to support the people of Baton Rouge, show solidarity...
STALLINGS: And to pray, to pray over everybody in Baton Rouge, specifically my own son because I'm scared. He's only 14. But soon, he's going to be going out by his self. And I don't want to have to be at home worrying about if he's going to come back in the same condition he left.
DICKERSON: After last night, across the country, black families and families of police officers share that worry. Caitlin Dickerson, NPR News, Baton Rouge.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're going to bring back Seema Yasmin now. She's a reporter with The Dallas Morning News. She is outside the hospital in Dallas, where those wounded police officers are being treated. And, Seema, we lost your line earlier. But you were telling us about others - protesters who happened - who you believe to have been wounded. What more can you say?
SEEMA YASMIN: That's right. I spoke to two sisters of a woman who's inside Baylor University Hospital, the hospital that I stood outside right now. They said that their sister had taken her three sons to the protest and that it was overwhelmingly peaceful. And members of the police force have said the same. They even shared videos on social media saying this was a peaceful protest.
The sisters of the woman who is in the OR right now having surgery for a gunshot to the leg said that she took her sons because she wanted her sons to experience a piece of history and to understand that you can protest peacefully. You can speak up when you're upset in America. And you can be part of the community. And they said that the shots were fired as people started to disperse.
MARTIN: We'll have to leave it there. Seema Yasmin with The Dallas Morning News.
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