Downtown Dallas prayer service remembers slain officers, calls for change

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A prayer service held in downtown Dallas on Friday remembered the five officers who were slain in an ambush attack after a protest Thursday night.

People packed Thanksgiving Square to hear Dallas Police Chief David Brown, Mayor Mike Rawlings, State Senator Royce West and several faith leaders speak in memory of the victims and call for a change in attitude.

“Our officers are going to need to hear from you more than just today that you appreciate their sacrifice,” Brown said. “To the citizens of Dallas, thank you to all of you for your show of support today. You’ve shown us that you really do care.”

West addressed the racial tensions in America, specifically the relationship between African-Americans and police officers. He said the racial tensions are often results of questionable relationships between officers and black citizens. Thursday’s protest in downtown Dallas was in response to police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota earlier this week. In each one, a white officer fatally shot a black man.

“We can address this issue and don’t have to continue to be divided,” West said. “Our generation must now step up and stop talking the talk, but walking the walk. Make this an issue that’s not just here today, but a priority for most political parties to solve.”

West asked attendees to join hands and pledge to find a solution.

Religious leaders Rabbi David Stern of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House, Imam Omar Suleiman and Bishop Kevin Farrell spoke at the vigil. Suleiman challenged citizens’ tendency to unite only after tragedies.

“We don’t want our hearts to be forced to come together in a superficial way in the face of tragedy,” Suleiman said. “We want our hearts to constantly remain united so we can realize a true picture of what we want this country to look like. It doesn’t need to be Orlando every time and it doesn’t need to be Dallas again.”

“We need to stand together today and reaffirm that injustice is not a solution to injustice and violence is not an appropriate response to violence.”

Rawlings brought up the history of Thanksgiving Square, which was built “as a piece of our soul of our city” one year after John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas in 1963. Rawlings said the square was built to be a place of unity for all races and “a place of thankfulness.”

“We must start with an attitude of change. An attitude of humility, of gratitude that this square was built on,” Rawlings said.

“We will not shy away from the fact that we as a city, a state and a nation are struggling with racial issues that continue to divide us. We have to attack it head-on,” Rawlings said. “It is on my generation of leaders that we have allowed this to fester. We must step up our game and approach complicated issues in a different way.”

Rawlings said that police-involved shootings and police misconduct represents a small percentage of officers and creates a bad perception of police who do their jobs well.

“Can we as citizens speak against the acts of a relatively few officers who blemish the reputation of their high calling, and at the same time support and defend the 99 percent of officers who do their job professionally, honestly and bravely? I think we can. Can we as a community truly and deeply understand the pain that racial discrimination has created? Can we do that by being honest about today’s shortcomings?”