On a blistering hot day, protesters in Dallas yet again gathered in front of the Dallas Police Department. Other local protests for justice in the name of ending police brutality have begun here since the death of George Floyd. Some have ended in tear gas, riots, and mass arrests.
It has been a turbulent week of social unrest stemming from recent episodes of police brutality. Tensions between police and protesters has been high, and Dallas has not been immune. However, Friday’s protest was a little different: this one was organized by the Dallas Police Department as a gesture of solidarity with the black community.
The march’s preceding rally started at 11 a.m. in front of the Dallas Police Headquarters on the 1400 block of S. Lamar. Some local activists perceived this event as necessary to reverse community-wide discontent and mistrust, while others criticized it as a performative and insufficient move.
Dallas police officer Arturo Martinez gave introductory remarks:
“Today’s the day that we finally stand and we march with our people, because when I take this uniform off, I’m just another Mexican on the street. We are united against racism. That’s why we’re here today. We’re here today because we just want equality every day. Because God made us this way.”
Martinez was joined by other city leaders such as Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall and Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax who addressed the crowd about the importance of accountability and unity. Trinity Church Cedar Hill pastor Jim Hennesy delivered a prayer.
Immediately following Hennesy’s prayer, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban took the stage and spoke.
“We all have issues, and we all have challenges,” Cuban said. “Organizations have to grow and get smarter and better, whether you’re police officers, whether you’re basketball players, whether you’re running an organization, whether you’re working for an organization, there’s always room. But in order for those organizations to improve, that improvement has to come from each and every one of us. It has to come from the bottom up.”
Over the course of the rally, police officers delivered water bottles to protesters and offered complimentary pizza, hand sanitizer and sunscreen at a table that stood adjacent to the stage.
The march kicked off about 45 minutes later with a brief stop at the neighboring South Side Flats apartment complex, where 26-year-old Botham Jean was killed in his apartment unit by former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. Martinez led a call-and-response in chanting, “Say his name,” through a megaphone, to which the crowd responded: “Botham Jean.”
Martinez led the crowd in other chants as they continued on their march, including one celebrating what would have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday. In March, Taylor, who was an EMT and aspiring nurse, was shot eight times by Louisville police after a botched raid. She was sleeping when they killed her. No officer has been arrested. “I want justice for her,” Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, told The Washington Post. “I want them to say her name. There’s no reason Breonna should be dead at all.”
In front of Dallas City Hall, Martinez instructed the crowd to kneel as he read George Floyd’s last words: “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” The crowd knelt for almost nine minutes to symbolize the duration that Floyd was asphyxiated by a Minneapolis police officer who has since been arrested and charged with murder. Three other officers were also arrested and charged.
Following the demonstration in front of city hall, the crowd marched back to the Dallas Police Headquarters where protesters were given a chance to converse with police officers.
Derek Chaney, a 21-year Dallas police homicide detective and a Black man, expressed enthusiasm for the march and contended that it was an important step in cultivating trust between the Dallas police and the city’s black community.
“I was born and raised in Oak Cliff, so I have experienced both sides. I have experienced growing up where I had to kind of be on edge when I encountered law enforcement,” Chaney told Local Profile. “I am one of a whole lot of officers that is fighting a system from within … we just want to make sure that the public – that the black community knows that they are not fighting alone, and that we can do it together.”
Dominique Fulbright, a 25-year-old Dallas resident, shared a similar sentiment: “I’m hoping that we will be heard and really seen, and that we can all truly connect as humans.”
While many Black Lives Matter protesters in attendance were pleased with the march, a climate of skepticism lingers among another cohort of local activists. Kristian Hernandez, co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America’s North Texas chapter, pointed out that while some police officers may feel the pain of what happened to Floyd, they are simply feeding an institution that results in thousands of George Floyds, people who have been “crushed under the weight of state-sanctioned violence.”
“If they are truly about saving Black lives, they should be asking for the divestment and demilitarization of the police as well,” Hernandez said.
The Dallas Police Department has faced sharp criticism over the past week for what activists perceive as excessive use of force in using tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bangs. In one particularly controversial episode, a Monday march on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge resulted in the arrest of 674 protesters. Chief Hall initially defended this move, saying, “I am not here to make people happy. My job and our job is to keep this city safe,” but in a Thursday press release, she announced that the Department would drop all charges against the protesters.
In a separate release issued on the same day, Hall announced the implementation of a new “duty to intervene” policy, which mandates that members of the Dallas police are obligated to stop, or else attempt to stop, another officer in the event that excessive force is applied.
“We’ve changed multiple policies,” Hall told Local Profile. “One of the policies that came from the community – Mothers Against Police Brutality – they asked when I first got here that officers, when they’re in an officer-involved shooting or critical incident, that they’re drug tested. We put that in place. There [are] many changes that we’ve made, and we’re committed to making them.”