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Courthouse Candlelight Vigil Held to Mourn 2 Black Victims in Fatal Police Shootings

Speakers decry ‘nation and system that has allowed this type of killing to continue,’ call for bridges to bring people together

Around 100 people attended a Sunday rally and candlelight vigil at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse for black victims of police shootings around the country. Click to view larger
Around 100 people attended a Sunday rally and candlelight vigil at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse for black victims of police shootings around the country. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Standing in solidarity as they held hands, a multiracial crowd gathered at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse before the sun set Sunday in a vigil for black victims of police shootings.

The event was organized in response to two fatal police shootings of black men last week, one of Philando Castile outside Minneapolis and the other of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La.

Members of the July 10th Coalition, UCLA Law student Dyne Suh, Santa Barbara City College Black Student Union president Chiany Dri and community leader Jordan Killebrew put together the candlelight vigil, which was attended by about 100 people.

“There is too much hurt and pain in many communities so our group wanted to provide a space for people to mourn and heal,” Killebrew said. “Where bridges can be created between communities and bring people together as Americans.”

The gathering remained calm, despite one man who approached the group shouting anti-black messages. The rally ended peacefully with no arrests or violence, according to Santa Barbara police Sgt. Mike Brown.

Killebrew thanked police for reaching out in support and agreeing to meet with community members to continue working toward a commitment to protect all people. He said the event was meant to bring respect to the victims and to educate others.

Organizers handed out candles, read multiple poems and held a minute of silence for reflection.

In addition, those in attendance were given photos of more than 50 black people who organizers say were killed by police. Dri and Suh asked for the photos to be placed in the middle of the group as the names, ages and descriptions about each death were read aloud.

“As the names were spoken I couldn’t help but think how absurd the justifications from the murdering of black bodies continues,” Aaron Jones of Santa Barbara said.

He mentioned the larger pattern of police killing African-Americans and said he was honored for the invitation to speak at the event, but was at a loss for words. 

“Too many times we have had to come together like this, share words, prayers, light candles and raise our voices,” he said. “My voice is tired.”

From right, community leader Jordan Killebrew and Santa Barbara City College professor Craig Cook lead Sunday’s rally in support of black victims of police shootings. “There is too much hurt and pain in many communities so our group wanted to provide a space for people to mourn and heal,” Killebrew says. Click to view larger
From right, community leader Jordan Killebrew and Santa Barbara City College professor Craig Cook lead Sunday’s rally in support of black victims of police shootings. “There is too much hurt and pain in many communities so our group wanted to provide a space for people to mourn and heal,” Killebrew says. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Craig Cook, a professor of American Ethnic and Black studies at SBCC, said the number of supporters at the event was powerful.

“We must continue to challenge the nation and system that has allowed this type of killing to continue,” he said. “We must not apologize for demanding that black and other people of color are treated with the same rights as others.”

Imam Yama Niazi, religious director at the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara, urged leaders to stand up and bring about change.

“As a wonderful nation, we have to stand by our principles,” he said. “We have to be fair, and my religion teaches all life is sacred. Every single person deserves to have a space on earth.”

Niazi also mentioned the “innocent police officers who lost their lives” in Dallas on July 7, when a sniper opened fire at the end of a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. Five police officers were killed and eight more wounded in the attack, the deadliest incident for police since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I’m sure there are wonderful, fair police officers, and their voices are not heard,” Niazi said.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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