A group of around 40 to 50 young protesters gathered in Cathedral Square downtown for a rally and march to raise awareness of police brutality and to correct misconceptions about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Mobile resident Joshua Salter said the peaceful rally was to “talk about what’s going on in our country.”
“We want to talk among our peers,” Salter said. “We want to talk about what we can do to help and what we can do to be heard.”
While he waited for others to join him at the park, Albert Terry, a scheduled speaker, said the rally was planned in hopes to better explain the Black Lives Matter movement. He said that while all lives do matter, the movement is simply about acknowledging years of oppression.
“People talk about how Black Lives Matter is divisive, but lumping everyone’s situation together is divisive,” he said.
Tiana Bryant, one of a group of organizers for the rally, said they wanted to speak out and thought this would be a good venue. She said the rally was meant to reflect on recent tragedies.
“It has been sad,” she said. “It has been a bad couple of days. It’s just hard.”
In the last week, Alton Sterling was shot and killed by Baton Rouge, La. police, Philando Castille was shot and killed by a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minn. and five police officers were killed while guarding a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas.
Dallas Police Officials later identified the shooter as Micah Xavier Johnson, who authorities say discussed the recent police shootings, but disavowed any connection to the official Black Lives Matter organization.
Bryant added that she was upset about social media reports linking the rally to planned riots and suggesting that the group were going to attempt to shut off the downtown tunnels to traffic. She said that was never part of the plan. Salter also added the group’s organizers were unaware Friday night was the city’s planned LODA Artwalk.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson released a statement urging visitors not to skip this month’s Artwalk, adding that the reports of protesters blocking the tunnels was not credible.
“An unreliable source has stirred the pot and we’ve engaged with this person to correct their understanding,” the statement read.
During remarks to the crowd, Terry said poverty, police-involved shootings and incarceration disproportionately affect people of color because the system is aligned against them.
“We will not stand for it anymore,” he said. “We will stand up for our rights.”
After Terry’s speech, the group marched down Conti Street to Royal Street and back up Dauphin before ending where they began at Cathedral Square. They held up handmade signs and chanted as they marched downtown.
More rallies are planned, organizers said, including a larger one at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Cathedral Square. Group members also urged each other to come to Government Plaza at 9 a.m. Tuesday for a rally and an opportunity to speak at the Mobile City Council meeting.
Lagniappe reporter Jason Johnson contributed to this report.
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