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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – In response to the Michael Brown decision, protestors took to the streets of North Texas.
Tuesday night a protest organized by the group Mothers Against Police Brutality started at Dallas Police Headquarters and quickly morphed into a march that proceeded north on Lamar, onto Interstate-35E and into Dealey Plaza. Crowds in lanes of traffic forced police to close a portion of the interstate.
For a short time protestors marched in the main lanes of traffic. Just before 10:30 pm, Dallas police worked to try and get the group off of an I-35 ramp. Dozens of police cars blocked the highway in front and in back of the protestors and traffic sat at a complete stop for miles.
Protestors later linked arms but kept moving. When the group reache the intersection of South Houston Street and Commerce they stop and kneeled on the ground with their hands up.
Earlier Tuesday dozens of people gathered outside Dallas Police Department headquarters and held a prayer vigil for Michael Brown. The gathering was planned and attended by a coalition of pastors from across North Texas.
Friendship West Baptist Church Pastor Freddie Haynes told CBS 11 News, “We wanted to have a forum to release the rage that we feel at the injustice that not only exists in Ferguson, but the sad reality is there’s a Ferguson right here in Dallas as it relates to the lack of a healthy relationship with the black community, brown community, poor people and the criminal justice system.”
While the decision in Ferguson has triggered violence there has been no such expression of outrage here, despite several instances of officers shooting unarmed men.
The closest and most recent example of public discourse over a police shooting happened in 2012 when a police officer shot and killed James Harper in the Dixon Circle community of south Dallas.
Harper’s death sparked a near riot. A grand jury cleared the officer involved.
Also cleared was the officer who shot and killed Clinton Allen at an east Oak Cliff apartment complex in 2013. In that case, protestors peacefully demonstrated outside Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins’ home.
But there have been no Dallas protests in the case of Andrew Gaynier. An off-duty police officer shot him six times back in August.
One of the big questions Tuesday — why hasn’t there been a similar level of anger surrounding police shootings in North Texas communities? There have been at least 19 Dallas police officer involved shootings this year alone, 10 people are dead as a result. But the shootings here have not generated large rallies.
Dominique Alexander’s uncle was shot and killed four years ago. He believes city and minority community leadership simply do not encourage civil engagement.
“In Dallas we don’t have that,” Alexander said. “We don’t have our community leaders and our pastors coming and being at the ground level and saying that ‘we need to stop this.’ They never come to render us aid when stuff like this happens in our community.”
Former Dallas City Councilwoman Diane Ragsdale says public outrage against police conduct does have a history here. Ragsdale recollects the heated rallies of the late 80’s, over police shootings and police being shot and killed.
Tuesday, she says groups such as Mothers Against Police Brutality still challenge police. “The truth of the matter is that there has been on-going confrontation. This city does have a legacy, a strong legacy, of protest,” she said.
Dallas Police Department Deputy Chief Randy Blankenbaker said, “There are people who speak, and when they speak, ya know, it’s important that we listen.”
Blankenbaker believes having an open dialogue has helped in deescalating Dallas situations.
Meanwhile, Dominique Alexander says he’s not asking for street violence like Ferguson, but he’d like to see more Dallas residents showing their concern.
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