A tattered U.S. flag flew at half staff behind a statue of Martin Luther King where 300 people, most of them black, held a peace rally as the sun set Saturday on North Las Vegas.
They came to make a statement that some described as “all lives matter” and to end “police brutality,” as organizer Vance “Stretch” Sanders, minister of Just Faith Ministries, put it, to mark the end of a violent week in which two black men were killed in out-of-state, officer-involved shootings, and five police officers were gunned down in Dallas by a sniper who was a black man.
As darkness set in, some people from the rally rushed into the intersection at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Carey Avenue where a traffic collision occurred but police formed a line and eventually moved them back to the sidewalk without incident.
“This is a rally that might be part of the Black Lives Matter movement,” he said before the rally and candlelight vigil got underway. “We need to come together, not just black people but all people. It’s part of the black power movement, the black struggle movement.”
The rally mirrored similar events across the country Saturday night as demonstrators took to the streets for vigils and protests in the wake of incidents where black people died during encounters with police.
After a peaceful start, the rally and candlelight vigil spilled into the streets Saturday night.
At 8:15 p.m., a car rear-ended a white pickup truck at the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Carey Avenue.
When the accident occurred, more than a dozen people from the rally rushed into the intersection and used water bottles to douse a small fire in the front of the car.
“Our protesters put that fire down before the cops showed up,” said Jessica Bosch, 30, of Las Vegas.
“It’s still 100 percent nonviolent,” she added about the rally.
Approximately 40 officers from the Metropolitan and North Las Vegas police departments were on hand at the rally, said Metro Lt. C.J. Jenkins. He described the protest as peaceful, and also said the vehicle accident caused only minor injuries.
Traffic had resumed moving at 9:30 p.m. in the northbound lanes of Martin Luther King Boulevard while several dozen rally participants remained on the sidewalk and at the community park near the intersection.
THE POLICE AND THE DARKNESS
Sanders acknowledged that the rally “took a turn. But that’s what happens when there’s darkness. The police shed the darkness,” he said.
Earlier during the rally, Tina Burse, 44, a former corrections officer from North Las Vegas, held her 4-month-old grandson, Michael Hawkins, while she swayed to soul music that blared from loud speakers.
“It’s for a good cause,’ she said. “Not only black lives matter but all lives matter. We need to come together and stop the violence.”
The candlelight vigil was organized in the aftermath of police shootings last week that killed Philando Castile at a traffic stop near St. Paul, Minnesota; and Alton Sterling outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; but before the five police officers were shot and killed in Dallas late Thursday.
Sanders, 21, from Chicago, had no comment about the shooting deaths of the Dallas policemen.
He said previously the sniper ambush in Dallas wasn’t a focus of the event. Instead, it was aimed at officer involved shootings in the Las Vegas Valley.
He cited a local incident, the Dec. 31, 2015, police shooting death of Keith Childress, an unarmed fugitive holding a cellphone in front of a west valley home.
“We want to bring peace and love into the world. There’s too much hate in the world,” Sanders said.
In many ways the rally seemed to be a flashback to the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s as phrases such as “police brutality” and “war is not the answer” were expressed in song and words.
“All the things going on are with the police brutality,” said Will Arco, 23, of Las Vegas.
“It’s definitely not a race war. All lives matter.”
Review-Journal writer Christian Bertolaccini contributed to this report.