Between 1,500 and 2,000 people gather in front of City Hall to light candles, offer prayers and listen to testimonials to the five Dallas police officers murdered by a gunman last Thursday after a Black Lives Matter march in downtown Dallas. The crowd is about 80 percent white.
Everyone is here to express support for the Dallas Police Department, DART Police Department and Dallas County Community College District Police Department. All came to mourn. But there are differences of opinion about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Jim Enzler, 66, a Dallas construction superintendent and his wife, Millie, 60, say they braved scorching heat to be a part of the vigil and to feel that they were doing something to support the police.
“We’re really upset and disturbed by the things that happened,” he says, “and we want them to know how much we love them and support them.”
She says: “The silent majority just sits back, doesn’t say or do anything to stand for their values, to stand up right or wrong. We just hear voices that are not necessarily the voices of the majority of the people.”
They both have skeptical feelings about Black Lives Matter. “Personally,” he says, “I feel like Black Lives Matter is not for justice. I think they are too divisive and have too much harsh rhetoric that incites people to violence.”
She says, “I have no problem with the protest. I have problems when they start saying hurtful things, ‘kill the police’ and that kind of thing. If they want to just go and have a peaceful demonstration and voice opinions, that’s one thing.
“But when they get crazy and start throwing bricks and rocks and saying terrible things, then that’s not the same.”
Desiree Woolcock, 42, a city employee who works in City Hall in the compensation department, worked previously in the police department for four and a half years.
“Just the interaction with your sergeants and lieutenants and officers, you get a different kind of feeling,” she says. “They back us, so I want to back them.”
She understands why the Black Lives Matter movement has focused on the deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota.
“I hate that it happened,” she says. “I hate that Alton and the other guy were in that situation.”
Of police in general, she says,“It’s a very hard job.”
Dallas School Board member Miguel Solis is at the back of the crowd in a blue shirt and dark striped tie with a blue armband on one arm. “They cannot be expected to do every single thing for people. They can’t be expected to solve every single problem," he says of police. "They can’t be expected to deal with the fact that too many of our children in our public schools are not getting the type of education that they need. They get kicked out, and it puts them in precarious situations."
He says the school system needs to improve. “We have this issue of disproportionate discipline issues in Dallas as it relates to young African-American boys. It has been suggested to us for years that we could be approaching this issue differently. Not getting that issue right in many cases possibly starts a domino effect that then lead to some of the issues that we’re seeing right now at the national level," he says. “We as a public school system have to own that. We have to do a better job of training our educators to make sure that a certain portion of our community, our most vulnerable, can make the most of their lives.”
Others in the crowd speak of their support for Dallas police but also express dismay over the recent shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. There is even a sprinkling of debate over whether the Dallas shooting has set back the Black Lives Matter movement.
One man says it doesn’t matter if the movement has been set back temporarily. “We have to go forward anyway," he says. "It’s the only solution.”
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