Peaceful vigil in North Las Vegas turns tense; 3 arrested

Las Vegas Sun – by Chris Kudialis, Ricardo Torres

It began as a vigil to honor black people killed by police officers nationwide and ended peacefully, but a tense standoff involving Las Vegas-area police and residents Saturday night reflected racial tensions simmering nationwide.

Hundreds of people gathered at 7 p.m. at the Pearson Community Center in North Las Vegas near the Martin Luther King statue, a symbol for racial justice and peaceful demonstration. Organizers and children lit candles arranged in the form of 138, the number of black people reportedly killed by U.S. police officers this year.  

ImageThere was a moment of silence, followed by speeches. The crowd at the event, billed as the Stop Police Terrorism Rally and Vigil, was mostly black, but people of many races and ages showed up. The hastily arranged vigil was spurred by deadly police shootings this week in Louisiana and Minnesota that have sparked demonstrations nationwide.

One of the organizers, the Rev. Vance “Stretch” Sanders, asked attendees to raise their right fists and repeat “all power to the people” as he introduced guests including Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson of North Las Vegas and congressional hopefuls state Sen. Ruben Kihuen of Clark County, Reuben D’Silva and Mary Perry.

D’Silva, who is running in Nevada District 1, elicited shouts of approval as he asked during his speech: “What are you going to do about this? How are you going to be a change agent? How are you going to move to action?”

A car crash about 8 p.m. across the street at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Carey Avenue drew attention — and responding police officers’ lights and sirens. Curious crowd members drifted toward the wreck as Sanders urged them to stay calm.

Demonstrators approaching the crash site initially held up signs, but the swelling crowd became increasingly agitated and soon filled the intersection, blocking and disregarding honking drivers. Demonstrators shouted and cursed at North Las Vegas and Metro Police officers as more officers arrived.

About 8:45 p.m., nearly two hours after the rally had begun, a Metro officer using a loudspeaker ordered the crowd to move to the sidewalk and added, “If you don’t comply, you’re getting arrested.” Three people eventually were arrested as more officers, and eventually a police helicopter and SWAT vehicle, arrived.

Event organizers tried to persuade the crowd to move to the sidewalk, to no avail.

“Everything is coming to a halt,” said one woman.

“Stop being scared,” a man told the crowd.

Several people repeatedly shouted “black power,” “hands up, don’t shoot” and “black lives matter,” along with obscenities. A black woman screamed at a white officer, telling him “you have no idea” what it’s like to be black.

At one point, another woman shouted at another officer: “We’re tired of you killing our black men. You guys are murderers.”

One officer told a crowd member that he hasn’t killed anyone.

Eventually officers lined up and pushed forward without touching crowd members, prompting them to move back to the sidewalk.

No violence

The standoff didn’t turn physical. Although some people shouted at officers, others shook hands with them and some smiles were exchanged.

It wasn’t always apparent that the event would end peacefully. When the street was initially blocked, officers donning tactical gear or perched atop horses stood in the middle of the intersection. They soon moved back.

Traffic was blocked for about 45 minutes and restricted for about two hours. About 40 officers from Metro Police responded, said spokesman Lt. Charles Jenkins, and dozens more North Las Vegas Police officers were involved.

North Las Vegas police spokeswoman Officer Ann Cavaricci described the situation as “fluid,” with a fluctuating number of officers at the scene at once.

Cavaricci said her department made one arrest of a man in possession of alcohol.

Unrest elsewhere

The anger and fear stemming from this week’s shootings, as well as the deaths of five police officers in Dallas at a sniper’s hands, extended well beyond Southern Nevada.

Late Saturday and early Sunday, demonstrators blocked Interstate 94 near downtown St. Paul, Minn., near the site of one of this week’s shootings. The St. Paul Police Department reported that at least five officers had suffered nonserious injuries when they were hit by rocks, firecrackers and bottles thrown by demonstrators. It was unknown how many people had been arrested.

Demonstrations also were held Saturday in California, Colorado, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah and Louisiana. Prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson was arrested during a protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana authorities said.

‘Encourage togetherness’

Organizer Angie Morelli, 33, said the event in North Las Vegas was put together to “encourage togetherness as a community.”

“People need to know this does not end tonight. It’s just the beginning,” Morelli said. “We need to be involved as a community and have a voice.”

Las Vegans Seth Hartley, 29, and Rochelle Dunmore, 46, stood holding signs in support of the demonstrators just after 9:15 p.m.

The two said they attended to support a “disruption of police functions” in response to the killings in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Charva Harris, 25, said she was proud that people of multiple races showed up, showing that “black lives really do matter. We’re not saying that all lives don’t, but we are saying black lives do matter.”

“It means a lot; it really does,” she said as she held a sign that read, “Stop Killing Our fathers, Brothers and Sons.”

Other attendees, including children, handed out water bottles.

“We’re just tired,” Jessica Brown said. “I’m scared to have a son, because I don’t know if (police) are going to kill (him).”

She said she doesn’t condone violence but approved of demonstrators blocking the street.

“Our voices need to be heard,” Brown said. “They hide us and they can’t hear our voice, but they heard our voice for sure.”

One thought on “Peaceful vigil in North Las Vegas turns tense; 3 arrested

  1. “Demonstrators shouted and cursed at North Las Vegas and Metro Police officers as more officers arrived.”

    Yeah, THAT always stops their homicidal rampages.

    “It means a lot; it really does,” she said…”

    Helps you sleep better, does it?

    Doesn’t mean sh#t to the pigs, sheeple.

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