A woman who was arrested last Sunday in a confrontational clash with law enforcement during protests over the death of Alton Sterling is now a key organizer in a vigil planned Wednesday to honor the slain police officers.
Blair Imani, 22, an LSU alumna and Muslim community activist, has been an outspoken critic of tactics used by Baton Rouge officers against protesters demonstrating in the wake of the death of Sterling, a 37-year-old man shot dead by police during a scuffle outside of the Triple S Food Mart.
But Imani said she's against all brutality, including violence against police officers. And she said that this is not a situation where people have to choose sides.
"All violence is wrong," she said. "Yes, I've always been against police brutality but violence is wrong and this is not the right way."
The One Baton Rouge Vigil for Fallen Officers, co-organized by LSU Student Government, will be at 2 p.m. on Wednesday at LSU's Memorial Tower. It's to honor the three law enforcement officers Brad Garafola, Montrell Jackson and Matthew Gerald, who were killed by a 29-year-old Kansas City man identified by law enforcement as Gavin Eugene Long.
"Our community is in a seemingly perpetual state of mourning. Waking up to the headlines of yet another shooting less than a week after my arrest at a peaceful protest broke my heart," Imani wrote on a Facebook event page promoting the vigil. "The senseless violence must cease, we must come together as a community in purposeful and meaningful ways. The first step toward rebuilding our broken community is for us to come together in mourning for all lives extinguished by senseless and tragic acts of violence."
Other vigils planned include an 8 p.m. event at Healing Place Church on Monday, and at least three Tuesday vigils at 6:30 p.m. at Acacia Church on Siegen Lane, 7 p.m. at Christ Community Church on Juban Road in Denham Springs and 7:30 p.m. at Grace Church in Central.
Imani was arrested last Sunday in a peaceful protest, turned hostile showdown between protesters and law enforcement. Officers at the scene concerned about efforts to block roads and the interstate arrived in riot gear, using an Long Range Acoustic Device, sometimes called LRAD or sound bombs, and brandishing long guns and gas masks.
More than 50 people were arrested that night, including Imani.
Imani still stands by her previous comments to media that she was brutalized by police officers while being apprehended. But she said that doesn't mean she can't condemn violence on both sides.
"Violence is a part of the culture of America," she said. "I'm tired of having two separate conversations about it."
The suspect shot and killed at the scene where three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers were killed and three others wounded on Sunday is believed to be the lone gunman involved, State Police officials said.
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