After the rain cleared Monday evening, about 700 people showed up at Parc Sans Souci in downtown Lafayette to pray for those killed by guns in Minnesota, Dallas and Baton Rouge, where a black man died a week ago when a white police officer shot him.
Then the crowd, escorted by officers with the Lafayette Police Department, marched through the streets of downtown and sections of busy Johnston Street and University Avenue before rounding back into downtown. Later, at a business on Jefferson Street, some of them were to discuss how to tamp down or even erase the racial tensions between the black community and police officers.
Roland Lewis, who is known as “Scomoney” when he’s a DJ at parties, said he organized the prayer gathering and Peace Walk despite other young black men telling him tact isn’t forceful enough to effect change.
“They said ‘You should burn some stuff down,’” Lewis said. “I wanted to do it the right way. … We all have the right to peace.”
The gathering in Lafayette was one of many protests across the country in the wake of the shootings last week: In the span of three days white police officers killed Alton Sterling at a convenience store in Baton Rouge and another black man in Minnesota, and five police officers in Dallas were killed by a black military veteran apparently bent on retaliation.
Unlike in Baton Rouge, where about 200 protesters have been arrested this weekend, there were no reports of arrests coming from the Lafayette march.
There is another event planned at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in Girard Park. Organizers have titled it “Justice for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.” Castile died in St. Paul, Minnesota, after a traffic stop turned deadly.
Before Monday’s march began, Lewis implored those huddled under the Parc Sans Souci pavilion and others who stood in the rain to get to know the police officers who patrol their neighborhoods.
“There’s been enough bloodshed,” he said. “We need to let (police) know we’re protecting them. … Cops are targets too, as well as black brothers.”
Not all there welcomed Lewis’ message of achieving racial harmony via peaceful methods. Todd Aubrey, a black man from Lafayette, said the racial makeup of those who attended the event Monday was telling. It was populated mostly by black people.
“Where are all the white people of Lafayette?” he asked. “Black people been hurt by (police) generation after generation.
“There are major issues in the black community, and they want me to be happy?” Aubrey said.
Karen Keller attended the event with a friend.
“I’m here to support solidarity for any and all people in a peaceful and prayerful way,” said Keller, a white woman. “Dr. Martin Luther King’s message is loud and clear and as relevant as ever.”