Marvin Hicks isn’t a regular when it comes to participating in protest rallies, but he felt compelled to turn out Sunday afternoon to protest the recent fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo.
“There have been too many murders where people have been killed by the police,” said Hicks, 69, a retiree who lives in downtown Raleigh. “They have overstepped their bounds. And there seems to be something aimed at people of color.”
Hicks was one of about 75 people, mostly African-American, who ignored the 90-degree heat to express their distress and their outrage over Brown’s death by attending a rally in downtown Raleigh on Sunday afternoon.
The shooting has become a cause celebre and has sparked a week of protests, sometimes violent, in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, where police initially responded by donning military-style riot gear and wielding automatic assault rifles.
But the grass-roots protest in Raleigh was peaceful. It started on the steps of the Wake County Courthouse on Fayetteville Street and ended a few blocks away in front of the building that houses the N.C. Supreme Court on Morgan Street.
As the protesters marched, they chanted, “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” Eyewitnesses to the Brown shooting have told reporters that the 18-year-old had his hands raised in compliance when he was shot.
Among the signs carried by the protesters: “Blacks Are People Too.” “Who Needs the KKK When You Have Racist Police?” “What Ever Happened to Protect and Serve?”
Prior to the march, speakers addressed the crowd for about 45 minutes, railing about police brutality, longtime oppression, white supremacism and white-dominated media.
They also cited incidents closer to home, such as the death of Durham teenager Jesus Huerta after he was arrested last year. Police concluded the Riverside High School student shot himself while handcuffed in the back of a patrol car.
“It’s not just about race. It’s about humans,” said Dequan Bradley, 22, of Durham, one of the organizers. “We’re in a country where our human rights should be protected.”
“I would say that Michael Brown was shot down like a dog ... but, you know what? America treats dogs better,” said the Rev. Curtis Gatewood of the NAACP.
Xarivera Burton, 37, a Raleigh truck driver, attended the protest with his wife and two children.
Burton said he was at distressed this week when his 10-year-old son, Gavin, asked whether Brown was killed just because he was black.
“I have no answer to that,” Burton said. “I want to tell him the truth. But I want to shelter and shield him from some of this racism stuff in the world.”