Video: Scores Take to Boise's Streets During 'Black Lives Matter' Demonstration 

click to enlarge Black Lives Matter demonstrators walking down Capitol Boulevard in downtown Boise.

Harrison Berry

Black Lives Matter demonstrators walking down Capitol Boulevard in downtown Boise.

Chanting "No justice, no peace, no racist police," scores of Black Lives Matter demonstrators marched through downtown Boise the afternoon of July 9.

"We're here to let this police force know we will tolerate no violence," said organizer Eve Garden.

The Boise protest came amid a week filled with high-profile violence. First, on July 5, was the shooting of Alton Sterling, a black man whose killing by police in Baton Rouge, La. was captured on video, appearing to show officers shooting him several times after he was subdued on the ground. The next day, July 6, Philando Castile of Falcon Heights, Minn. was shot by police during a traffic stop. That shooting was also captured on video, which showed Castile slumped in the passenger seat of a vehicle, bleeding from his torso, as his girlfriend recorded the incident. 

"Please, officer, don't tell me that you just did this to him," Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, can be heard saying in the video. "You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir."

As with other rallies around the country, the Boise demonstration was meant to send a simple message about police violence.

"African Americans are dying—and from our own law enforcement," said demonstrator Elena Soto.

The demonstration began at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial and ended at the Idaho State Capitol, temporarily stalling traffic on Capitol Boulevard. Boise police officers were dispatched to direct cars around the group of nearly 200 people. Some, like Dele Ogunrinola, were impressed by the officers' helpfulness and demeanor.

"I felt very welcomed, like they got what we were saying," he said.

While the past week was fraught with anger over officer-involved shootings, it was also a heartbreaking one for police. A day after Castile's shooting, Black Lives Matter demonstrators gathered July 7 in Dallas to show solidarity with others protesting police violence. The peaceful protest was shattered when a sniper opened fire, claiming the lives of five Dallas police officers and wounding six others. The stated goal of the shooter, a black man who served in the U.S. Army Reserves, was to kill white police officers. He was ultimately cornered in a parking garage and killed by a remote controlled bomb robot.

Despite national mourning for the slain officers in Dallas, the police presence in Boise was viewed with suspicion by some who expressed varying degrees of anger at law enforcement in general and BPD in particular. Several demonstrators noted two people died in June during Boise police officer-involved shooting incidents. Others said they had been victims of police violence, or had difficulty obtaining information on BPD's use of force and situation de-escalation policies. Everyone was upset at the deaths of Sterling and Castile.

Ogunrinola said the rollout of Boise police body cameras is a step forward for transparency, but it will take "restructuring of the power structure" at police departments and the halls of justice around the country to generate the kind of change demanded by those at the rally.

However, for Garden, BPD's commitment to Black Lives Matter can be shown in a simple way.

"They can keep their finger off the trigger," she said.

Boise Police Chief Bill Bones discussed the Dallas shooting on July 8, saying it's impossible to prevent similar violence from taking place in Boise, but BPD's community policing and outreach strategies may help reduce violence and improve law enforcement's relationship with the public it serves.

At the Boise demonstration, some saw the Dallas killings as distracting from raising awareness of the problems of racism and police violence committed against people of color.

"What happened in Dallas really solidified the need to keep the focus where the focus should be," said Melissa Dittrich. "How many black lives had to die before this movement crystallized into what it is? It's easy to get distracted, I think."

"Although Dallas was wrong," said demonstrator Matthew Darcy, "that's not changing the conversation."
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