Responding to Violence, Boise Political, Faith Leaders Hold Community Vigil 

click to enlarge Boise Mayor Dave Bieter speaking at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial.

Harrison Berry

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter speaking at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial.

Civil and faith leaders, as well as almost 200 members of the Boise community, gathered under the threat of rain and the pall of last week's violence to hold a community vigil July 10 at the Anne Frank Memorial.

"We have to do all we can to bring people together," said Boise Mayor Dave Bieter.

Bieter was one of many who spoke at the event. Their remarks were in response to the officer-involved shootings of two black men—the July 5 killing of Anton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La.; and the July 6 killing of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn.—as well as the killing of five Dallas, Texas, police officers during a Black Lives Matter demonstration July 7.

click to enlarge - Boise Police Chief Bill Bones. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Boise Police Chief Bill Bones.
The rapid succession of events has given momentum to the Black Lives Matter movement, and a BLM rally marched through the streets of Boise the afternoon of July 9. Castile, Sterling and the slain officers "did nothing to warrant their deaths," said ACLU-Idaho Public Policy Strategist Kathy Griesmyer, but law enforcement around the country must recognize it is "part of a historical pattern of violence."

She recommended police adopt de-escalation tactics in training and use of force policies, and for communities and lawmakers to "meet the problem head-on." She gave her critique of law enforcement while condemning the act of terrorism in Texas.

"The answer to violence by police isn't violence against police," she said.

Francisco Salinas, Boise State University director of Student Inclusion and Diversity, also spoke to the widespread problem of race relations. Salinas said racism can't be limited to the actions of hate groups, but must be understood as ingrained in society and kept alive by silence, prejudice and privilege. 

"White supremacy doesn't stop with the police," he said. "[It] lives in many places."

The events of July 5-7 have put pressure on the Boise Police Department to respond. BPD Chief Bill Bones said the tragedy in Dallas had a deep impact on his department, and officers would wear mourning strips on their badges in honor of the dead. In his remarks Sunday, however, he spoke to the problem of police violence.

"There is a history where police have not treated people equally in this country," he said, but, "the minute it becomes 'us vs. them,' that's where we fail."

Many speakers at the event called for a national conversation about race, privilege and the police, but acknowledged it's likely to be an awkward, difficult one. They discussed white privilege and the responsibilities of those with power and privilege. For Rev. Marci Glass, of Southminster Presbyterian Church, not having that conversation for the sake of manners or political correctness would be tantamount to condoning continued violence.

"If we use peace to silence those who are dying, it is not peace," she said. "Peace cannot be a tool of oppression."
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