Demonstrations Across The Country After The Dallas Shootings Show The Only Way To Respond Is To Keep Protesting

The shootings in Dallas are still fresh on the minds of every American, but they cannot derail the movement to fight against police violence. Vigils have been held to honor the lives of the fallen officers — many young, some with families — and they should continue. But that does not mean Black Lives Matter protests can be delayed, diminished, or otherwise held back in the meantime. The protests in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and across the country show the only possible response to the Dallas attack is to keep protesting.

CBS News reported that thousands marched in downtown Atlanta on Friday night with the support of the city's mayor and police chief. They brought traffic to a standstill, chanting, "Hands up, don't shoot." In Phoenix, protestors pushed on despite calls from the mayor and local police to delay them following the Dallas shooting. "We cannot let domestic acts of terrorism — which is what occurred in Dallas — prevent us from being civil rights activists," one of the protest organizers, Rev. Jarrett Maupin, told the Arizona Republic.

Even more meaningful were protests in the hometowns of the two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, who were killed earlier this week. In Baton Rouge — where Sterling was killed selling CDs Tuesday — some 200 protestors stood up to police, who were decked in riot gear and had assault rifles, marching and shouting, "No justice, no peace; no racist police," near police headquarters along a busy highway. Several were arrested.

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In St. Paul, Minnesota's capital city, which is just a 13-minute drive from the suburb where Castile was gunned down during a routine traffic stop Wednesday, protests continued for the third straight day. Perhaps there, more than anywhere this week, the calls for reform of the criminal justice system have taken root. About 1,500 people have been outside the governor's house — some have even set up camp — and he has no plans to forcibly remove them regardless of the length of the protest.

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The Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday, "Would this have happened if those passengers would have been white? I don’t think it would have." He reiterated that sentiment again on Friday, according to the Associated Press. Dayton has met several times with protesters. Also speaking up for justice is Ramsey County Prosecutor John Choi, who is in charge of prosecuting the county where Castile was killed.

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He said he was undecided if there would be a grand jury for the officer involved in the shooting, but he told reporters Friday that the video of Castile's death will be part of the investigation into the killing:

We must do better in our state and in our nation to improve police-community interactions to ensure the safety of everyone in this country, but particularly the safety of African Americans, who disproportionately lose their lives as a result.

Now more than ever there's the potential for backlash. And now more than ever it's important to drive home the message that police violence against black Americans is unacceptable. The Black Lives Matter movement acknowledges the value of every life — including those of the police — and the ongoing efforts to support the reform of the criminal justice system cannot take a back seat.

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The families of Castile and Sterling have denounced the Dallas shooting of police. The mother of one of Sterling's children released a statement rejecting the violence against Dallas Police, the AP reported. "Our hearts break for the families of the officers who were lost as they protected protesters and residents alike during a rally," the statement read.

Valerie Castile, Philando's mother, echoed that point in an interview with CNN. She said her son would not have supported the shootings, "because he believed that all lives matter." And that exactly is the message of the Black Lives Matter movement. All lives do matter, but there's one group of Americans that the police, prosecutors, prisons, and criminal justice system seem stacked against. And that they need to hear that message now.