Dallas police march in 'Blue for Black Lives Matter' demonstration

Several hundred police and protesters — about a quarter of them uniformed officers — marched from Dallas Police Department headquarters to City Hall and back

By Tom Steele, Jesus Jimenez, Obed Manuel and Charles Scudder
The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS — After a week of protests in Dallas highlighting police brutality and systemic racism, police officers took to the streets Friday to proclaim that, yes, black lives do matter.

Some demonstrators, however, said that a display of solidarity from police isn’t nearly enough.

Police in Dallas hold a
Police in Dallas hold a "Blue for Black Lives Matter" event Friday. (Photo/Twitter/@ChiefHallDPD)

Several hundred police and protesters — about a quarter of them uniformed officers — marched from Dallas Police Department headquarters to City Hall and back. The event was dubbed “Blue for Black Lives Matter” and was organized by Dallas police Officer Arturo Martinez.

“The reason that we officers stood up is because today is the day that we finally stand up to systematic oppression,” Martinez said. “Today is finally the day we stand up for our people. … When I take off this uniform I’m just another Mexican on the street.”

Although police officers marched together with protesters, for some, like Dallas social worker Ashley Samuel, 30, the department’s actions haven’t matched its words.

Samuel was arrested Sunday evening for being out after the 7 p.m. curfew for downtown Dallas and surrounding areas.

“It was absolute physiological torture,” Samuel said. “I came out to say black lives matter, and I got held in a cell for 29 hours. I want them to be held accountable.”

‘In this together’

Shortly after noon, the group knelt outside City Hall for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck, killing him.

Martinez read Floyd’s last words aloud: “Please, I can’t breathe. My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. They’re going to kill me.”

As time ticked on, Martinez asked those in the crowd if their knees hurt, if they were thirsty and if they were tired.

“That is only a fraction of what George Floyd felt,” he said.

Among those demonstrating was Jennie Meier, 30, a surgery resident at UT Southwestern Medical Center. With a sign that read “White coats for black lives,” Meier stayed toward the back of the crowd in her blue scrubs and knelt.

Meier said the hospital held a moment of silence Friday morning to honor Floyd, but that it didn’t feel like enough and she wanted to come out to City Hall.

“We just want to make sure that we take as stand together as physicians,” she said.

Also in the crowd was Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, with his wife and children.

“We’re all in this together,” said Cuban, wearing a black face mask with a Mavericks logo and the words “I can’t breathe” across the front.

‘We have to own it’

Most of the police taking part were people of color — only a few white officers participated.

Police Chief U. Reneé Hall, who is black, said she had to hold back tears when discussing the video showing Floyd’s death.

“We take a knee because we feel the pain too,” Hall said. “We watched it. We have to own it. We have acknowledge it. We have to fix it in our respective police departments and we have to be committed to move forward.”

Along the march, protesters and officers — including Hall — chanted “black lives matter,” and the names of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Botham Jean.

The crowd stopped for a moment outside the South Side Flats, where Jean lived when he was killed in his apartment by off-duty Dallas officer Amber Guyger in September 2018. (A since-deleted tweet Friday morning by the Dallas Police Department misspelled Jean’s name.)

Sgt. Ira Carter, whose speech at a north Oak Cliff protest went viral on social media earlier in the week, said the changes that activists want will require reforming the entire criminal-justice system, not just police.

“At some point in time we gotta make those that don't feel the way we do uncomfortable,” Carter said. “If you see any officer out there doing anything wrong, hold that officer accountable. We have to be held accountable in order to go forward and make this movement work.”

‘Baby steps’

While photos and videos of officers kneeling with protesters have offered made-for-TV moments of reconciliation, some activists say it’s not enough. More serious action, they say, is necessary to reform police departments.

Thursday night, for example, Hall announced a new policy that requires a “duty to intervene” if officers see a fellow officer using unnecessary or excessive force. It’s one of many steps protesters nationwide have asked for.

“It’s baby steps. You gotta crawl before you walk,” said Detective Terrence Savior, one of the officers who joined the march. “People are tired. It’s what needs to happen to get where we need to be.”

NEXT: Videos, photos: Cops, activists connect during #GeorgeFloyd protests

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