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Victorians try to raise awareness of systemic racism

Kathryn Cargo By Kathryn Cargo

July 17, 2016 at 10:36 p.m.

Members of the Black Lives Matter rally line the sidewalk facing Main Street in downtown Victoria.

Members of the Black Lives Matter rally line the sidewalk facing Main Street in downtown Victoria.   Savannah Blake for The Victoria Advocate

The shooting deaths of three Baton Rouge, La., police officers hung heavy over a Black Lives Matter rally Sunday in downtown Victoria.

Such horrible incidents cause people to be afraid to attend rallies and speak out, said Lisa Ruiz, Victoria rally organizer.

"People are terrified to come out for something like this," the 37-year-old Victoria native said. "The idea is to open up minds so that fear starts to dissipate. We shouldn't be afraid to have a voice. We shouldn't be afraid to use our voices, but we are."

About 40 people gathered Sunday afternoon at DeLeon Plaza to rally and raise awareness about systemic racism, police brutality, racial profiling and oppression in economics.

While standing on the west side of the plaza facing Main Street, people held signs calling for equality and unity and emphasizing that black lives matter.

Event organizers read 630 names of people of all races killed by the police since Jan. 1. Organizers took their number from killedbypolice.net. A Washington Post tally reports 522 people have been shot and killed by police in 2016.

The names are representative of violence that is no longer welcome and of change that needs to happen in society, Ruiz said.

"If people can't see that change is needed, that's what we're here for, to open up their minds and help liberate and help them see that change is needed," she said. "If we can change one mind, it's all worth it."

Mark Perez, 40, of Victoria, said the shooting in Baton Rouge made him sad, but that didn't stop him from coming to the rally to support Black Lives Matter.

"Officers shouldn't be killed any more than anybody else," he said. "It just shouldn't happen."

Perez said that the counter-movement of All Lives Matter diminishes Black Lives Matter and what supporters are trying to accomplish.

"Ultimately, what ends up happening when we say 'All Lives Matter' is we start focusing on areas that may need help, but by doing so we ignore other areas that need more help," Perez said. "Yes, all lives matter, but not all lives are being systematically killed. We can focus on the main problem and still address everyone else's problem."

Regarding the police shooting in Baton Rouge, 37-year-old Victoria native Denise Daniels said those who are truly part of Black Lives Matter believe in the equal treatment of everyone and are against all killings.

When police brutality happened to people who aren't black, Daniels said, it wasn't All Lives Matter that showed up on Twitter; it was Black Lives Matter.

"When a white teenager was killed by the police, All Lives Matter didn't post about that. Black Lives Matter did because any injustice is wrong no matter who it happens to," she said.

Systemic racism and police brutality led two radical black people to shoot police officers, said Larry Steen, 64, of Victoria.

"That's what this is doing," Steen said. "It's causing black people to retaliate. I don't agree with it, and it's sad. They did it to draw attention to what's going on."

Before the Baton Rouge shooting, Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed and killed five police officers and injured seven other officers and two civilians. The shooting happened July 7 at the end of a Black Lives Matter rally held to protest police killings in Minnesota and Louisiana.

Steen said there has never been a black person killed by police in Victoria to his knowledge. Rallies like this one bring awareness to the national situation and help prevent police brutality from happening locally, he said.

Police have not been accused of brutality in Victoria, Ruiz said, so that means the local law enforcement is doing something right.

"We're lucky enough that none of this has reached our beautiful little big city of Victoria," she said. "But this is a national issue. Just because it's not in our front yard doesn't mean we are not affected by it."


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