Dallas, Texas – Following the deadly shooting attack on police officers during a protest in Dallas, many people came out to commemorate their lives at a memorial downtown.
Around a dozen people held signs in front of the police station for hours, while a steady stream of others came to leave flowers, cards and prayer notes on a pair of parked police cars.
Thursday’s attack left five police officers dead, wounded another seven and injured at least two civilians, according to the local police.
The suspect was identified as 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson, a former US soldier who had served a tour in Afghanistan. Before he was killed by police, Johnson reportedly said he aimed to “kill as many white people as possible, especially officers”.
The protest, which was peaceful, was sparked by an increase in police violence that had already left four Black men dead since the beginning of the month, according to The Guardian’s database on police killings.
Al Jazeera spoke with locals about how they believe Dallas, particularly its black communities, will be affected by the incident.
While the Dallas Police Department has been praised for its reform, there was little consensus among people in the city’s downtown on Friday as to what comes next.
Many people were out with signs and said they supported the police, but most said they expected things to get worse.
Yvette Gbalazeh, medical marijuana activist
I’m a full-time activist to legalise medical marijuana in Texas, and I’m here to support the police officers. What happened last night was a terroristic act. It was cowardice. No change was made. No points were proven. Five officers, five quality people, are gone.
Cops will bring me water, they’ll offer me a ride – just unusual kindness, you know? And then to target them? And then there’s that man over there who came here to the memorial to disrespect.
The thing is, you have to target the individual cops who are the problem. It’s so much harder to do your research, to go after his badge – it might take two years, it might take five years. Real activism takes time to get little movements, OK? So these people [Black Lives Matter], they’re a joke. They come out once a year, or whenever they’re feeling antsy, and they’ll come out just to be destructive. They don’t go to city council.
How easy is it to go speak for three minutes on public record? These people don’t go. You ask them who the County Court Judge is and they don’t know. And you’re mad at these employees we hired, and you don’t know who they are? Really? It’s straight up ignorance.
As an activist, I work with individual officers – I don’t blame the whole city! I mean, how are you going to change anything? And I know it’s tough, you have to be patient – this is a marathon, not a sprint. Things didn’t get this way overnight . Killing five wonderful people, what does that do?
I’m only half black, so I guess only half of my life matters. So, my mom doesn’t count? Really? Come on, man. Complain about racism by being a racist? Really?
Chris Dowdy, part of a faith community at Paul Quinn College
We already had this prayer vigil planned because of the shootings of Black men this week, but obviously the events that happened in Dallas made this more urgent for us.
Caritza Mariani, counselor at Paul Quinn College
The college has a long and strong relationship with Dallas Police, and all the students are learning about community service and organising and they’re taking it on in different ways. They all produce project work toward their final grade involved in showing how they can make progress in the world, whether that’s big or small . We have young people work on issues such as homelessness or the lack of resources in this neighbourhood. Getting them exposed to organising skills and doing it in a safe way and letting them take those skills back to wherever they come from , that is our focus. “Lead from where you are” is one of the values we talk about here.
Robert Tinajero, administration staff, at Paul Quinn College
We spent all morning talking to students, letting them air their concerns. There were some students who had police in their family who said it’s a very hard job, all the way to “all cops are racist and we can’t trust them” and a lot of that comes from actual experiences students have had. Most of the students are in the middle somewhere.
Chad Houser, chef and co-founder of Cafe Momentum
All we knew was, “active shooter, two blocks away”. We needed to keep the kids safe and we needed to keep our guests safe. I watched one of the valet guys standing in front of the restaurant ; he just took off running like I’ve never seen a human being run and on the side of his face was horror.
Hordes of people started running this way from the train station and I didn’t know what to do so I just opened the door and started yelling at them, ‘You’re safe! you’re safe!’ and waving them inside. It was like a herd of gazelles, they suddenly all turned and started pouring through the door.
Once they were all in, I locked the door, and I looked around the restaurant. There were people hiding in the bathrooms and poking their heads out; there were people under the tables. All of a sudden, one of the people who’d come in fell over and started having a seizure and, luckily, one of the guests was a doctor.
The fire truck came for the man who had the seizure and my first feeling was that them being here meant we were safe; because at this point it still wasn’t clear what was happening downtown. It was at least another hour before we felt safe, before we knew we could start figuring out how to get the boys home since all public transportation was shut down.
Paxton and Saven, local college students
Paxton: We saw what happened last night on the news and we’ve lived here our whole lives . It’s our hometown. So, we’re just really passionate about what’s going on, and trying to unite everybody instead of picking sides, blue or black.
Saven: For me, my dad’s an officer, we just did a rally not too long ago, about how police lives matter, and then this happened, and … we started talking and we took off work today to come down here. We’ve been down here all day walking around, looking for rallies, talking to people. This is our hometown, our city, and it feels …
Paxton: Too close to home.
Saden: This is a big shock to us. My dad came down here last night . He was supposed to retire after 36 years, but they called him in to help. He was in the Air Force before that, so this is a huge ordeal for us. My cousin got called down here too. He got hit in the vest, but he’s cool. He’s OK.
Paxton: It’s weird today because on the buses it’s divided, like the races: the blacks will sit on one side, whites the other, and I sat on the side black people were sitting on, like, this is [dumb], but it’s ridiculous that we’re having to divide ourselves. This should be a wake-up call that this happens to everybody, not just a single race. It happens everywhere and it shouldn’t.