Jermaine Johnson said he has a clear vision of what he believes is unjust in his country.
“What is wrong with America is that police are killing our children,” Johnson said. “The people who believe that marching is a antiquated strategy haven’t been to a march. Or if they have, they haven’t experienced the tragedy of seeing a police officer kill someone you love. These marches give people a voice. It’s like a yell.”
Johnson was among hundreds of protesters, young and old, black and white, who chose a peaceful path of resistance during Saturday’s March to End Police Brutality.
The march was organized to honor the memory of Jordan Edwards — a black teen fatally shot by a police officer in Balch Springs on April 29 — and hundreds of others who have been killed by law enforcement officers in 2017.
According to a Washington Post database, 447 people have been fatally shot by police in 2017, which is on pace with 2016 statistics, when 963 were killed.
Odell Edwards, Jordan’s father, got choked up as he spoke to the crowd at Pike Park at the end of the march, saying he missed his son and holds onto hope that he can keep his remaining family close.
“Father’s Day is hard for me this year,” said Edwards, wiping away tears.
While the killing of Jordan — he was unarmed when shot with a rifle by officer Roy Oliver, who was fired after the shooting and charged with murder — reignited a national outrage against police brutality, Friday’s acquittal of a Minnesota officer in a fatal shooting reopened another painful wound.
Protesters said the fatal shootings are tragic, but the injustice is inexcusable and shameless.
Officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty Friday of second-degree manslaughter in the death of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old school cafeteria worker. Castile had been pulled over by Yanez on July 6 in St. Paul, Minn., and told the officer that he was carrying a gun for which he had a permit. The officer told Castile not to reach for his gun, then opened fire on Castile.
More than 2,000 people protested Friday’s verdict in St. Paul and 18 people were arrested, according to media reports.
The march in Dallas was smaller and much more subdued, but the message was the same.
“When you have a country where an officer can shoot a person and walk away with no penalty, what kind of country is that?” asked John Fullinwider, one of the march’s organizers. “Is that a western democracy or is that a police state? This country is both. It’s a democracy for some and a police state for others.”
Fullinwider, who is white, pointed to the highly-publicized Fort Worth case of Jacqueline Craig as an example. Craig and her two daughters, who are black, were arrested in December during an altercation with Fort Worth officer William Martin, who has acknowledged — and apologized for — his inappropriate behavior during the incident.
Craig had called 911, claiming that a neighbor had assaulted her 7-year-old son.
“It’s very difficult to imagine what happened to Jacqueline Craig happening to a white woman, with a black officer and a white child and a black neighbor,” Fullinwider said. “These examples are really where the system unravels. And the state will never say, ‘Hey, you can’t do that to her kid.’ The state comes in and reinforces what’s going on. The raw end of the social contract is what the police can do to you.”
Seth Cain, 18 of Granbury came to the march with his father.
“With Trump and police brutality, things are just getting out of hand,” Cain said. “A peaceful protest is the way to go. It’s easier to be more involved in a setting of unity like this. My mom didn’t want me to come because she’s afraid I’ll get hurt.”
Cain’s father, Charles Hermes, said he teaches philosophy at UT Arlington and emphasized the importance of understanding the levels of the criminal justice system.
“People know the words but they have not understood the meaning of the words,” Hermes said. “I ask my students what are inalienable rights and they know to say they are rights that can be neither given nor taken away because they need to be able to recognize the term on standardized tests and check the right box. But they have not studied what the term actually means. They don’t know that this is not something that the government grants. They do not really understand these rights belong to everyone.”