On Friday afternoon, at a specially called meeting of the Dallas City Council, 213 public speakers signed up to air their grievances. Over the course of almost five hours, just two people spoke in support of the police.
Since Tuesday, demonstrations have been peaceful, but last weekend was filled with tear gas and violence. A man lost his eye and seven teeth after being shot with what appeared to be a sponge bullet, a “less lethal” form of crowd control that police used on peaceful protesters throughout the weekend. Another man had his jaw broken by a cork bullet fired by an officer with either the Irving or Garland police departments; that’s still under investigation. A curfew was initiated Sunday, and 124 people who violated it were shuttled to Lew Sterrett. Some were filmed being thrown to the concrete before their arrest. Then, on Monday, 674 marchers were corralled after walking onto the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and shot with sponge rounds and detained.
For the public speakers yesterday, those wounds were still fresh, even if the last few days have been quiet and meaningful.
“Blinding us instead of killing us is not progress,” said Ben Struby.
“I am now terrified to be a vocal member of my community,” said Jesse Solis.
“Tear gas is a chemical weapon,” said Justin Boyd.
“I have been horrified by what I’ve seen in our city,” said Allison MacMahon.
“For the past 50 years, Dallas has had one of the most unaccountable police forces in this country,” said longtime activist John Fullinwider, on behalf of Mothers Against Police Violence, after naming eight people who had been shot and killed by Dallas officers since 1970. None of the cases he named ended with a murder conviction. “We have to find another way.”
“One of my main concerns in the response by DPD is the amount of trauma they’ve created in this community. I’ve had countless calls from people with depressive symptoms, anxiety attacks,” said Zandra Ellis, a co-founder of the mental health advocacy nonprofit Foundation 45.
These speakers were in pain. Some cried. Others described 7-inch welts on their thighs from being shot with sponge rounds during Monday’s mass detainment. Their voices shook through their allotted minute and a half. Some spoke of watching in horror from the safety of their downtown apartments as protesters were fired upon and taken into custody. They called for Police Chief U. Reneé Hall to be fired. Like public comment in many other cities, they demanded that City Council defund the police department and reinvest those dollars into communities of color. Later, three council members expressed being open to the idea in some form.
The voices were a contrast to the day’s peaceful events: a mourning at City Hall, culminating in an 8 minute and 46 second silence at 8:46 a.m., in honor of the amount of time Minneapolis Ofc. Derek Chauvin held his knee to George Floyd’s neck. Faith leaders led the day in prayer, and Mayor Eric Johnson and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson spoke.
“Racism is not new to this country,” Congresswoman Johnson said. “It’s a part of the fabric. I have lived it for 80-some years. But let me say this. We’re not going to live in peace until we come to grips with racism. … I want to tell you what’s on my heart. The first term that I was in public office, my first interim study was to study race relations in policing. Nothing has changed.”Read More