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Las Vegas protesters sound call for justice in fatal police shootings

“Black Lives Matter,” nearly 100 protesters shouted as they were lying in the intersection of Casino Center Boulevard and California Avenue. “Brown Lives Matter.”

Demonstrators stormed downtown Las Vegas’ First Friday issuing a call for justice and showing their solidarity with other “die-ins” staged across the country in response to recent officer-involved shootings in which African-American men were killed and law enforcement faced no consequences.

Three different groups planned similar events tonight but eventually merged into one crowd that made its way through the art vendors, food trucks and music festivities that are part of the monthly event.

“I wasn’t aware of the other groups being here,” said Niko Centeno-Monroy, who organized one of the groups. “But we are all here for a similar cause so it’s better to have more people.”

Centeno-Monroy, a local teacher, said his eighth- and ninth-grade students have been concerned about recent police actions that ended deaths.

Most recently, a New York grand jury decided on Wednesday not to indict New York City Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black male, on July 17. The incident was videotaped by a bystander and showed Pantaleo using a chokehold to subdue Garner, who kept saying that he couldn’t breathe.

The decision also came nearly a week after another grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., declined to indict white police officer Darren Wilson who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, six times on Aug. 9.

Both events have spurred a national discussion on race relations and police brutality and resulted in protests around the country.

“I had several of my students come up to me to express their thoughts,” Centeno-Monroy said. “After the verdicts, they wanted to do something. The students needed an outlet to express what they were feeling.”

Protesters released white balloons to represent people who have been killed by police. The protesters remained prone in the intersection for 4 minutes and 30 seconds, reflecting the 4 hours and 30 minutes Brown was left in the street after being shot.

People taking part in Facebook events for “Fight The Power” and “March First Friday,” also joined in. Holding an “Equal Under The Law,” sign, Las Vegas attorney Robert Kern joined into the protest. He said he watched in horror as both grand juries declined to indict.

“The people who are supposed to be enforcing the laws and keeping the peace should be held to a higher standard, the highest standard,” he added.

Contact reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5201. Follow @mjlyle on Twitter.

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