Peace prevailed Saturday at a Tacoma “Stop Killing Us” rally attended by some 600 supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Organized by Tacoma native Alexandra Waller, the event began and ended with prayers and included speakers, performances and collective chants.
Waller began by directing the crowd to “start speaking up” against racial injustice.
“We’re here to keep the peace,” she said, and asked, “Let us not leave this place the same way we came.”
Among the speakers, Tacoma City Councilman Keith Blocker urged, “Tacoma needs to stand up and start thinking about these issues.”
Of black lives lost, he said, “We can mourn,” and of the lives of police recently lost, he said, “We can also mourn the lives of officers that were taken. We have to continue to stand in love, to represent peace.”
“It is a slow process, and it will remain slow unless we speak up,” he said.
“White folks and black folks need to become literate in American history,” said Tacoma Hilltop resident Larry Norman. “Right now there are just too many lies and misrepresentations.”
Rap artists offered their songs and rhymes while children in the nearby in People’s Park playground played on swings and slides.
The crowd joined together to chant, “The people united will never be divided.”
“Put the guns down, guns down,” said one the rappers.
It was part of the song. There were no guns in evidence.
“I pray. I was directed to come here today,” said a woman in the crowd named Nina.
“We have the right to grieve,” said Ph.D. candidate and Federal Way resident Daryllyn Harris, from the stage.
“We want an end to white supremacy and systemic racism,” she said. “Racism is real and it impacts all of us. We will continue to march, we will continue to keep fighting until changes come.”
“People are afraid of me because of the color of my skin,” said divinity student Malando Redeemer of Spanaway. “I came here today to say this: ‘Don’t fear me. Understand that I matter.’ ”
The fear appears on both sides, he said, offering, “I shouldn’t have to walk down the street and be afraid.”
“Hold your head up in all of this,” he said. “I love that we’re all here, but let’s keep fighting. Don’t kill me. Know me. Respect me. Let me live.”
“I want people to step out of their comfort zones and interact with each other, so we are no longer fearing one another,” he said after addressing the group.
“Fear and hatred come from ignorance,” he said. “If we can get to know each other, we can eliminate fear.”
“What you saw here today was unity,” Waller, the organizer, said as the crowd fell away. “Where there’s a spirit of divisiveness, the spirit of unity will always prevail. That’s what this was today.”
A group of perhaps 100 people leaving the rally marched down from the Hilltop to stand before both the County-City Building and then the Tacoma Municipal Building in protest.
Closely monitored by Tacoma Police, the march soon dissolved with neither violence nor arrests.
“We appreciate that there were over 600 people who were all peaceful and respectful,” said Tacoma Police public information officer Loretta Cool late Saturday afternoon.
“I was impressed,” she said.