With shouts of “No Justice, No Peace” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” Black Lives Matter supporters rallied Sunday to show solidarity in the aftermath of two deadly police shootings and sniper attacks on police in Dallas.
The diverse crowd was estimated by organizers in the thousands and turned out to listen to speakers in front of Cincinnati Police District One headquarters, most of them referring to the shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota as the most recent examples of what they called a failed system in need of change.
“Black Lives Matter of Cincinnati seeks to channel this anger and desire for change into a movement for unified action,” said Ali Ingram, reading a policy statement from the group. “We recognize it is a sad and unfortunate circumstance for the families of the police officers that were killed, however, we are sure that the persons responsible for the killing of these officers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Ashley Harrington, who serves on the steering committee of the local Black Lives Matter group, said it was “extremely important” to have a mass, organized, disciplined march.
“It tells the community that this is not acceptable, that we will take a stand against this injustice and we know that historically movements that have mass numbers are the ones that are able to be the most effective,” Harrington said. “(The large turnout) means people are fed up with a system that continues to murder … black and brown folks without any consequence, without cops being jailed or indicted. People are ready to really stand up and make a change.”
Patricia Richter, 26, of New Richmond, said she attended the rally because “people’s silence is just them being complicit in the violence and everything that’s happening.”
“I’m just sick of seeing people just standing on the sidelines and not doing anything or saying anything about what’s happening,” she said, noting that her race as non-African American did not matter when it came to standing up for the cause.
“It’s not about me being black, it’s about the fact that this is about my community, this is about the safety and dignity of my community, not just here in Cincinnati but across the country and across the globe.”
The rally showed the city is “willing to get into this fight for justice,” said Demetrius Holder, 40, of Cincinnati.
“We have to put our foot down,” Holder said. “We have our own that were murdered here in Cincinnati. When will it stop? The time is now.”
Dubbed by organizers as “Enough is Enough: Justice for Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and Sam DuBose,” the march stretched for several city blocks and paused briefly at 13th and Republic streets for marchers to place roses under a tree near where Timothy Thomas was shot and killed by police in 2001.
“It’s amazing to see all these people coming together,” said Ayunna Strickland, 25, breaking into tears moments after placing her rose. “It’s very important. They’ve got to stop the violence. They have to. We all need to come together and come up with some type of plan to move forward. A change needs to come.”
Castile, 32, was shot and killed last week during a traffic stop in St. Paul, Minn. A livestream broadcast by his girlfriend during the moments after the incident went viral.
DuBose, 43, was shot and killed last July by University of Cincinnati police officer Raymond Tensing during a traffic stop for a missing front license plate.
Sterling, 37, was shot in the chest numerous times last week after officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, confronted him while he sold compact discs outside a convenience store.
The rally culminated at Washington Park with a vigil that saw speakers memorialize Castile, DuBose, Sterling and other black men shot and killed by police officers.
Carl Houston, 27, a University of Cincinnati student from Cleveland, said the rally’s massive turnout was “a beautiful thing.”
“I think it shows more people are trying to get together and actually make a change and use their power together instead of separation,” he said.
The rally, said Houston’s friend, Chad Owens, 30, who is white, was not “a race thing” but rather a “human life thing.”
“It’s standing up for people who are getting messed over,” he said.
Menelik Menefield, 22, of Cincinnati, said the most important lesson to take from the event moving forward is that unity can make a difference.
“Everybody uniting and coming together as one, peacefully, and not having all these outrageous violent outbursts and stuff,” he said.