Calls for justice, peace echo at Alton Sterling memorials
Sandra Sterling is mad that her nephew, Alton Sterling, is dead.
She’s angry that he died at the hands of Baton Rouge police early Tuesday.
But her anger has limits.
“I’m not angry enough to hurt nobody. I’m not angry enough to go in the street. I’m not angry enough to curse the police out,” she told a crowd outside the convenience store where white officers pinned Sterling, a black man, to the ground and shot him to death.
“But I’m angry and I’m mad because they took something from me that I’m never, ever gonna get back,” she said. “So y’all pray for me.”
Her call for peace echoed through the crowd outside the Triple S Food Mart on Wednesday night for a vigil remembering Sterling.
It was one of many events organized in Sterling’s honor one day after his death. From Ferguson, Missouri, to Philadelphia, people turned out to remember the 37-year-old father of five whose death has sparked national outrage as he joined a list of African-Americans who have died in police-involved shootings.
To many, he is the latest victim of a racially biased justice system, a theme reflected in various social media memes in the wake of his death.
‘Please remember to be peaceful’
Graphic cell phone video of the shooting spread through social media.
The release of more footage Wednesday from a different angle reinforced the view in the minds of some that officers shot Sterling without cause. Baton Rouge and Louisiana officials promised to be transparent about how they handle the controversial case. They said the investigation into Sterling’s shooting would be led by federal authorities.
Other speakers at the Baton Rouge event echoed Sandra Sterling’s call for peaceful demonstrations in her nephew’s name.
“As we light these candles in memory of Alton’s family, please remember to be peaceful,” said LaMont Cole, councilman for the North Baton Rouge district where the shooting occurred.
Crowds began gathering early Wednesday outside the convenience store for the second day of demonstrations, carrying “Black Lives Matter” signs and wearing shirts with the hashtag #JusticeForAltonSterling.
Throughout the day, no single emotion captured the mood, Baton Rouge activist Aaron Banks said.
Some people were clearly upset, crying, swearing and shouting, he said. Others tried to keep the mood positive and focused on Sterling, a father of five known as the “CD man” who sold tunes and DVDs outside the convenience store where he was shot.
“Emotions are all over the place,” Banks said.
‘We’re not going to tolerate this anymore’
By nightfall, by most accounts, the mood in Baton Rouge was somber yet peaceful, giving way to moments of celebration thanks to second line parades.
Elsewhere, volunteers made progress on a mural of Sterling that was started earlier in the day outside the convenience store.
Banks said Sterling’s death was the tipping point for a community struggling with poverty, crime and neglect by state and local politicians.
The message of the vigil?
“We’re not going to tolerate this anymore,” he said.