Following the shooting deaths this week of two black men and five police officers in various cities around the country, Fresnans are calling for justice and peace.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 37-year-old Alton Sterling was killed Tuesday by police responding to a call about a man with a gun. A bystander filmed two officers tackling Sterling and shooting him several times.
In Falcon Heights, Minnesota, 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot multiple times Wednesday by a police officer. His girlfriend, who broadcast the aftermath of his shooting on Facebook from the passenger seat, said Castile was pulled over for a broken taillight.
At a protest for those deaths Thursday in Dallas, a black former Army reservist opened fire on Dallas police. Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, killed five officers and wounded nine others, include two civilians. Police said he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.
Several protests, vigils and are planned in Fresno, where some are still reeling from the June 25 death of a local white man, 19-year-old Dylan Noble, who was shot four times by two Fresno officers.
One protest, circulated on social media, is planned for 5 p.m. Saturday at West Shaw and North Blackstone avenues. It’s unclear who the organizer is, but a Facebook post says protesters will honor the deaths of Noble, Sterling and Castile, who it says were “murdered by these corrupt officers who abuse the authority we give them to protect and serve us.”
The Facebook post says to come in running shoes and that protesters will show police they won’t tolerate abuse.
On Sunday, the nonprofit Faith in Community is planning a vigil and walk starting at 7 p.m. from Saint Rest Baptist Church in southwest Fresno. The group is planning a rally sometime next week at Courthouse Park in downtown Fresno.
The Rev. D.J. Criner of Saint Rest reflected on the tragedies Friday morning on Facebook. Criner said the shootings illuminate the hate and racism that exist throughout the country. He urged people to “be angry but sin not.”
“I mourn and stand with black men and women who are afraid to walk or drive down the street,” he said. “I mourn with the families of the officers who were killed yesterday. My heart broke as I watched.”
On Friday, Faith in Community urged clergy to preach this weekend against white supremacy and anti-blackness, shape messages around Scriptures about the implications of injustice and provide a call to action grounded in peace and healing.
In an interview with KMJ talk radio show host Ray Appleton, Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said he worries for local officers, especially following the Dallas shooting.
Dyer said additional officers will be on patrol this weekend, and those starting their shifts at 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. will drive with two officers per car. He said police have to be prepared, guarded and careful.
Dyer was aware of the protest planned for Saturday. He said officers also heard that the group responsible for the Thursday protest that shut down Highway 880 in Oakland might come to Fresno. According to the Bay Area News Group, two groups sponsored that protest: The Anti Police-Terror Project and Frisco500.
On race, Dyer said people have become too divided. He said he hopes Fresnans protest peacefully.
“The race issue is so apparent and we’ve got to deal with it, but deal with it in a nonviolent way,” he said.
Protests and vigils in Fresno
Saturday, July 9
Protest for the deaths of Dylan Noble, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at 5 p.m. at the intersection of West Shaw and North Blackstone avenues
Sunday, July 10
Faith in Community vigil and walk at 7 p.m. starting from Saint Rest Baptist Church, 1550 E. Reverend Chester Riggins Ave.