Communities throughout the Piedmont hosted peaceful protests, vigils and conversations Thursday in response to the officer-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota.
In Greensboro, a Black Lives Matter group of about a dozen people gathered outside the Guilford County Courthouse with signs such as one reading, "My family, friends, and loved ones will not be another hashtag."
Greensboro community advocate, Rev. Nelson Johnson, describes the two latest shootings as “disturbing”. Through his work at The Beloved Community Center and Faith Community Church, Johnson advocates for improved police-community relations. Johnson is praying for the families of the victims in those shootings. He’s calling on the help of presidential candidates Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump.
“It’s a very important issue of race and police conduct. It needs to be discussed by them, the public needs to be assured that they are first aware of it, sensitive to it, and are thinking and debating creative proposals that the public can listen to,” Johnson said. “Help [us] be assured that whoever is elected pays attention to this.”
The shootings were also the topic at Heads Up Barber and Beauty in Greensboro.
“It's getting to a point where they're literally shooting first and asking questions later,” said one worker at the shop. “How can you not see that there's a difference between race in the way things are handled [with police].”
“These situations make every police person look bad, but then that's when we have to talk to our kids and let them understand that not every police [officer] is bad,” another worker said. “[They’re] supposed to serve us, be there for us and stuff, not kill us.”
Rev. James Burroughs of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Asheboro helped organize a peaceful protest and prayer circle there Thursday.
“We have an outstanding chief of police. We have an outstanding mayor. But I think the role of religion, the role of the church, is to always speak truth to power. So although there may not be incidents like we see in places like Minnesota or Baton Rouge here in Asheboro, we still have a responsibility to point those things out and let government officials know we will be holding them accountable.”
Pastor Tracii Miller of Wesley Chapel AME Zion Church in Asheboro agreed. She believes more police training and community meetings would help ease tension in cities all over America. “We have some bad cops, but in spite of all that, we still have a lot of good cops. A lot of good police officers. And for our police officers, and especially when it comes to African American males, just be patient. They're not a population that you have to fear.”
Burroughs said it’s not about pointing fingers, and it’s not as simple as choosing sides. “Our job together as people of this community of Asheboro is to come together and see beyond our divisions and see the beauty that lies inside each of us. We all have something to share. And instead of calling for nasty things, why don't we call forth belovedness in each other?”