People from across the Triangle gathered Thursday night in downtown Raleigh to protest the police shootings of African-American men this week in Louisiana and Minnesota.
“If it can happen in Louisiana, if it can happen in Minnesota, it has and can happen here in North Carolina,” said the Rev. Mark-Anthony Middleton of Abundant Hope Christian Church in Durham.
About 50 people gathered in front of the courthouse on Fayetteville Street to pray and listen to speeches about the shootings. They carried signs with statements such as “Every 48 hours, another black man is killed” and “Another Day, Another Hashtag.”
Middleton told the crowd that someone who is afraid of heights should not be a window washer. Likewise, he said, “If you are afraid of black people ... then you should not work as a police officer anywhere in this country.”
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Andrea Richardson, founder and chief operating officer of The NuSol Natural Hair and Beauty Expo, organized the vigil. She called the two deaths “unspeakable” and “deplorable.”
“We have to do something. We are responsible for our city,” she said. “It’s important we get together and shed light on this. We need to call on God. We need divine intervention to stop the killing of so many black men.”
On Tuesday in Baton Rouge, La., Alton Sterling, 37, was shot and killed by police outside of the Triple S convenience store, where he was selling CDs.
On Wednesday in Minnesota, another black man, Philando Castile, a 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor at a public school, was shot during a traffic stop in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights. A video of the shooting aftermath went viral Thursday. It was captured live over Facebook by the victim’s girlfriend, who said Castile had been shot “for no apparent reason.”
Reginald Stepney, a Southeast Raleigh pastor who recently participated in the cleanup of a mini park in the neighborhood where Raleigh police officer D.C. Twiddy fatally shot Akiel Denkins on Feb. 29, described the Louisiana shooting as appalling.
“From what I saw ... on the video, it’s an outrage,” said Stepney, who is pastor of Fulfilled Promise Tabernacle on Bledsoe Street. “It’s almost like a public lynching.”
Stepney added, “Each and every day white Americans are disarmed by the police without gunfire. Why is it that African-Americans have to suffer brutality while being disarmed?”
Diana Powell, director of N.C. Justice Served, a statewide organization that mentors young people in county jails, said that with the Louisiana and Minnesota shootings “and all the others, somebody is trying to send us a message.
“The message is, ‘you’re a black person, you’re a Negro. You will always be a Negro, a slave. And we can shoot and kill you,” she said. “We’ve got to send a message back. Our message is continue to be united.”
Someone among the protesters started to sing a gospel song, while another one of the protesters recited the names of African-African Americans killed by the police. She started with Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old immigrant from Guinea who in 1999 was shot and killed by New York police officers who fired 41 shots, 19 of which struck Diallo. The four officers charged with second-degree murder were all acquitted.
“Since Rodney King, what they are telling us is that it doesn’t matter if the whole world sees it. It doesn’t matter,” said Antonio Terrell, 50, of Raleigh. “We are becoming a communist state, a police state. Why not start with the people you’ve always killed?”
The Rev. William J. Barber II, head of the state NAACP, issued a statement in advance of a Friday morning news conference at the North Raleigh Hilton with the NC Prince Hall Mason Youth Assembly.
“It is good the underground electronic network can transmit images of police-involved homicides across the nation in hours, forcing the mass media and our political leaders to address police profiling and excessive force cases,” Barber said. “These images and the powerful organizing work our members and friends in Black Lives Matter have done have shocked millions of people of good will. Unfortunately, for black people, these images are not shocking – they are daily realities for millions of us.”
Staff writers Anne Blythe and Thad Ogburn contributed to this report.