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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Black Lives Matter Tucson holds vigil and march downtown

Hundreds of people gathered at Armory Park Saturday evening to attend a vigil hosted by Black Lives Matter Tucson in response to the recent killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The group organized the event before five Dallas police officers were killed and seven others wounded in a shooting on June 7, in Dallas, Texas.

Representatives of BLMT, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and members of the crowd spoke at the rally.

Christopher Smith, a 2013 UA graduate and one of the speakers at the vigil said he was hurt by the events that happened in the past month and wanted to come to the rally to show his love in any way he could.

“I find myself honestly so confused and not knowing what to do, and I felt like it was time for me to do more than just sit at home and be worried,” Smith said. “I needed to be somewhere, I needed to do something whether it was just come to a rally and speak.”

Smith said he was happy to see so many people he knew as he addressed the crowd on stage.

“I saw students that I taught, I saw friends, I saw people who I celebrated Ramadan with in high school, I saw all of that,” Smith said. “I saw just a genuine happiness that I was there and I wasn’t expecting as positive of a response as I got.”

Smith said coming from the diverse background of being black, white, gay and Muslim has allowed him to understand and interact with a wide number of people that he may have never met otherwise.

“Because I have that, I feel the love and I feel the pain of so many different groups, and it makes me want to do more and it makes me want to change more,” Smith said.

At the end of the speeches gatherers moved from Armory Park to downtown Tucson.

The crowd walked north on Sixth Avenue, along Toole Avenue and up and down Fourth Avenue before returning west on Congress Street. Dozens of Tucson Police Department officers were located throughout the route to direct the crowd and ensure public safety.

“With the vigil organizers, they wanted to definitely make sure that we understood that this is a vigil, not a protest,” said TPD detective Kristopher Goins. “It has been outstanding, outstanding working and shaking hands and just mingling with the community.”

Goins said it was a great opportunity for local law enforcement to interact with the community and let them know the police were there to make sure the vigil was peaceful.

“Not only am I an officer, but I’m also a member of this community,” Goins said. “So the opportunity to allow our community members to express their frustration of what they see nationwide and then be able to communicate that in a civil way … it was refreshing, it was very nice.”

UA student Caleb Rashad Stewart said one of the reasons he attended the rally was to spread the word about a protest he’s trying to organize on the UA mall on August 21 after students return to school.

“I’m just trying to get the word out there so we can organize and we can get something way bigger than this,” Stewart said. “I’m trying to have 100,000 at least standing strong with me on the UA mall.”

Stewart, who studies criminal justice, said he came to the UA knowing that if he could get a degree in the field, then one day he could become a police officer and understand what it means to be one.

“I don’t know what it means right now,” Stewart said. “I can educate myself that way, I can put myself up there and see what it means, and then once that has happened, I can find out what needs to change.”

Stewart said that people have forgotten how to love each other and need to learn to love each other no matter what has been said or done to them.

“We just need to learn how to love,” Stewart said. “I don’t even really know what that means myself, all I know is that that is what we need to be doing.”

Follow Michael Hernandez on Twitter.

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