Peaceful unity event now planned for tonight to include support for police, #BlackLivesMatter movement

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Groups are planning a peaceful demonstration Friday evening in Huntsville, and it's evolved into a joint event to support the lives of law enforcement officers and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Most demonstrations this week, about the shootings of black men by police officers, have been peaceful.  An event in Dallas, Texas on Thursday night turned violent after the protest was over, though, as snipers shot 12 officers from downtown buildings.

Organizers started planning Huntsville's event on Thursday before the Dallas shootings happened.  Huntsville's demonstration has now evolved into a larger event. Here is the statement from the event Facebook page:

"This is a CommUNITY event. We understand that many people in our city and nation are traumatized, angry, and hurt in many ways. In Huntsville we are working together with our City leaders to be proactive, to set goals to move Huntsville forward, & to recognize social justice and equality for all. We acknowledge that we are not completely there yet but with tonight's event we begin down a new road of compassion, cooperation, and respect for all. We promise to continue to be proactive and to create events for further conversations, community planning, and other needs that may be identified."

Free2Be CEO James Robinson said groups involved met with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and the Huntsville Police Department on Friday.  The group has a permit and police will provide protection.

Here are the details of the Huntsville demonstration on Friday, July 8:

  • The march begins at the intersection of Meridian Street and Cleveland Avenue at 6:30 p.m. This is just near 'The Lumberyard' area.
  • People will proceed to the Huntsville Veterans Memorial, at 200 Monroe Street. 
  • The crowd will then proceed to the Huntsville Police Department headquarters and the Fallen Officers Memorial, located at 815 Wheeler Avenue. 

"Black men especially, across the country, are feeling trauma," said Free2Be CEO James Robinson. "As a privileged white male, I didn't understand 'Black Lives Matter,' but I kept an open mind, I listened, I observed, and I asked questions."

Others involved say Huntsville isn't too far from these issues.

"It's not wrong to be angry but it's very much so wrong to be led by emotions the are detrimental to your cause," said Afu Okosun.

The cause is change and it stretches beyond the black community.

"Whether it's race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, the reality that these basic rights are being denied certain individuals of our society is the reason why a lot of us overwhelmingly are banding together," explained Okosun.

Okosun and Robinson agree oppression must be fought everywhere.

"It's one thing to hear of an account, now, with technology, it's another thing to watch it live," said Okosun.

"This is not just a black issue," said Robinson. "It's an issue that black lives are not always apparently valued on an equal level and that's what we have to change."

Here is more information about the event on Facebook.