Local student leaders, politicians, law enforcement officers and other community members partnered Sunday for PeacePrevailsID, a vigil meant to memorialize the deaths of black men killed by police officers as well as officers killed during a protest in Dallas earlier this week.
The Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU) helped organize the event, which drew over 100 people to the Anne Frank Memorial in Boise, after students felt “helpless” in response to the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and five Dallas police officers, said ASBSU student lobbyist Josh Scholer.
“We wanted to acknowledge how everyone was feeling,” he said. “Both the black lives and the cops’ lives that were lost.”
“I was shocked and horrified when I heard the news this week,” said attendee Julia Spencer-Franklin. “And then I became even more horrified as I saw the response.”
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“We are in a state of anarchy where people take up arms against those that protect them,” she said. “It makes me sick.”
According to Scholer, the goal of the event was to unify the community and build a bridge between differing perspectives.
“This is not All Lives Matter or Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter,” said Scholer in a nod to movements that have snowballed since unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Mo., two years ago.
But that sentiment ruffled feathers on the event’s Facebook page, where one commenter wondered if such an approach created a gathering with “milquetoast calls for peace, calm and love that just stifle a justified rage people could harness to work for change.”
Still, others stood behind the gathering in hopes of sparking preventative, lasting change. Phillip Thompson, president of Boise’s Black History Museum and a speaker at the vigil, said he hopes to avoid “having a feel-good moment and then nothing gets done.”
“You don’t react. You should be proactive,” said Thompson. “You don’t wait till all hell breaks loose and then say, ‘Oh, we have to fix it.’”
Many of the event’s speakers, which included Mayor Dave Bieter, Boise Police Chief Bill Bones and Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, called for frank conversation as a starting place. Police officers dotted the crowd members, many of them carrying Black Lives Matter or Idaho is Too Great for Hate signs, in an effort to encourage openness between Boiseans and the Boise Police Department.
“Either we heal together or we fail together, and failure is not acceptable in my book,” said Bones.