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Protesters, city and county officials take a knee before Wednesday's listening session in South Dallas.EXPAND
Protesters, city and county officials take a knee before Wednesday's listening session in South Dallas.
Stephen Young

City Officials Hear Protesters Out in South Dallas

After days of rallies, marches and clashes with police, the Dallas protesters calling for change after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police office paused Wednesday to air their grievances in front of audience that included members of Dallas City Council, Dallas County Commissioners Court and Dallas Police Review Board.

Anyone who managed to find a spot within earshot of the speakers outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in South Dallas — the event's microphone was connected to a too-small speaker — would've heard plenty of righteous anger. Dallas protesters, in the streets again because another black man has been killed in dubious circumstances by the police, have been penned in, subjected to curfews, gassed and fired upon with foam bullets this week, all as they've pursued justice in a city where it's been hard to come by.

The line of speakers that took the stage at Dallas City Council member Adam Bazaldua's event spoke for more than three hours, lamenting the past and repeatedly calling on each other to create a better future by electing better leaders throughout federal and local government.

One speaker, a white man named Steve, called on the crowd to keep its energy up, even as its members grew tired from the work they've put in this week. The next person to take the mic, a black woman, asked Steve his age, after he replied — the Observer didn't catch what he said — she called him out. Centuries of oppression give you the right to be tired, she said, not a week of protest.

Standing at the back of the crowd, Aaron Harris, a black man, said it wasn't up to the protesters to solve the politicians' problems.

"It ain't for us to answer, it's for them to figure out," Harris said. "We've been talking. We're done talking."

More than two hours into the event, Bazaldua took the stage.

"I'm going to stand with you until we see change," he said. "I cannot tell you how proud I am to represent a city that had people as passionate as each and every one of you to help make this city change."

There was no visible police presence at the listening session. When it was over, what remained of the crowd briefly marched away from the community center on Malcolm X Boulevard, took a knee for the eight minutes and 46 seconds that Floyd remained pinned on the ground by Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed him, turned around and came back to the community center without incident.

The path toward any potential changes in Dallas city policy begins Friday with a specially called meeting of the City Council. Monday, the Council's Public Safety Committee will review DPD's actions during the protests.

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