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Boise Demonstrators Voice Solidarity With Ferguson Community, Protest Police Militarization

"The real issue is that a black man was walking down the street and was gunned down unjustifiably."

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Demonstrators slowly gathered around park benches near the rose garden in Julia Davis Park Aug. 22. Several had come on bikes and wore T-shirts with slogans scrawled in Sharpie on them. A black-clad trio with black handkerchiefs tied around their faces arrived carrying a home-made banner rolled between two dowels.

They'd come to march to Boise City Hall to make their voices heard about events in Ferguson, Mo., where the police shooting of Michael Brown Aug. 9 launched protests in the St. Louis suburb that have been met by militarized police resistance. The shooting, protests and subsequent police response have drawn national attention to issues of racial inequality and police militarization. 

The demonstrators left Julia Davis Park at 2:30 p.m. and arrived at City Hall at just before 3 p.m. By then, their ranks had swelled from about 25 to more than 50, and following brief chanting on the corner of Capitol Boulevard and Idaho Street, they gathered before City Hall's patio, where community member Tai Simpson took the microphone to talk about what events in Ferguson have meant to her.

"[These events are] connecting our past to our present," she said. "We've refused to learn from history: Colorblindness is racism." 

Though Brown's shooting has agitated longstanding racial tensions in Ferguson and around the country, it has also brought to light the degree to which police departments are fortifying themselves with military equipment and tactics. In Ferguson, police have responded to protests with tear gas, semi-automatic weapons and armored vehicles. 

"The police are going to war in our black and brown communities," Simpson said.

Following Simpson at the microphone was former St. Louis, Mo., resident Brian Shields, who issued a plea to be skeptical of media reports of looting in Ferguson, and be critical of the way media have portrayed events there.

"The real issue is that a black man was walking down the street and was gunned down unjustifiably," he said.

Calls to action came from Alejandra Mejia of the Boise State University chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztl├ín, who warned, "If we don't say something [about racism] today, this might happen to us tomorrow." Interim Director of ACLU-Idaho Leo Morales said that Ferguson "is a reminder to all of us that we must act."

Morales also echoed Simpson's concerns about police militarization.

"[Police] disproportionately use these weapons in our communities of color," he said.


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