Editor’s Note: We traveled forward in time 48 hours to file this report.
–DALLAS, Tx, July 10, 2016
Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964)
In what one onlooker described as an “exhale of tensions,” a sea of humanity descended upon Dealey Plaza in Dallas Sunday to hear speeches, sing songs, and announce that peace will win over hate.
In a carefully orchestrated and negotiated march that was equal parts photo-op as it was a rally and memorial service, leaders from both political parties, members touched by several high-profile crimes, as well as the President of the United States Barack Obama, marched for about a mile west on Main Street in Downtown Dallas. The march ended at the spot where the country lost its innocence in 1963 – the place John F. Kennedy was gunned down by a sniper. The choice of the location was ever so poignant as upwards of one million people crowded around stages and loud speakers steps away from the deadliest loss of life for Police Officers since September 11, 2001 on Thursday night in downtown Dallas.
“There is no place for this. There is no place for bigotry, racism, and gun violence, for murder, for hate” an angry President Obama shouted into the microphone. “This is not America.” Obama was carefully flanked on each side by Presidential hopefuls Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Due to a last-minute request, Senator Bernie Sanders joined Clinton as did former President George W. Bush, Dallas native. Each were given an opportunity to give brief remarks.Secretary Clinton said, “religion tells us that violence begets violence. The late Reverend Martin Luther King tells us that violence is not the answer.” Every line included pause breaks that led to roaring cheers from the sea of people.
“We are nearing the time for the greatest debate this country will ever know,” Donald Trump said in a relatively hushed tone compared to recent speeches. “This country will pick a new direction, but that direction must be forward and it must be peacefully. This is not America.”
The speeches ended about a 20 minute peace march which was led by the five politicians, Dallas Police Chief David Brown, and the wife of Philando Castiele, who was slain by a Minnesota police officer earlier in the week. The procession also included survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida as well as a mother who lost her child at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Obama, Clinton, and Trump briefly locked hands and walked in the humid Dallas heat.
“Enough has been enough for far too long,” Senator Bernie Sanders said in his brief remarks. “We must do better.” Former President Bush also kept his remarks brief, but did challenge the NRA to do more, “I’ve grown up in this community and this violence is not my community. I call on everyone who can do something to DO something. That means the NRA. That means members of the black community. That means leadership in police precincts across this country. This is not America.”Tears pooled in the eyes of several in the crowd as President Obama ended the speaker portion of the rally. “Here. In this place. This is where our country was faced with its biggest challenge. When John F. Kennedy was slain by a man with a gun, our country would never be the same. It is a fundamental challenge it seems we are no closer to solving. But words will not solve this. You. You will solve this. Gun violence is not America. YOU are America. YOU are the ones who need to resolve conflict peacefully and be responsible gun owners. YOU will need to help all races and creeds to find a way to coexist. YOU will do it because YOU are America. Not these senseless acts.”
As the speakers left the dais, they were flanked by a beautifully placed collection of the America Obama was referring to. There, hand in hand were police officers holding hands with young African Americans holding hands with children of all races and creeds. The crowd noise swelled. “THIS IS NOT AMERICA” as the chant grew louder.
Time will ultimately tell if the Rally at Dealey was a turning point in the escalation of violence in the country, but the million or so who peacefully assembled downtown Sunday were a significant place to start.
[Featured Image: “People as far as the eye could see” said one veteran who followed President Obama in the procession. Photo/Reuters]