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Campus hosts vigil for victims of recent violence

Tensions among police officers and black communities around the country have been high in recent weeks, after a spate of officer-involved shootings of black men and killings of police officers. The Student Diversity Center, in partnership with Washington State University Vancouver’s Black People United (BPU), hosted a vigil on July 13 to “unite the community and begin the healing process,” according to organizers.

Recently, black men were killed by police in encounters in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Five police officers were killed and seven more wounded in Dallas, Texas, when a gunman opened fire on police after a Black Lives Matter protest. Further violence occurred again in Baton Rouge over the past weekend, where three police officers were killed and three others wounded in a manner similar to the previous weeks’ violence.

The vigil took place on the patio outside the Student Diversity Center and was open to all. University staff, students and community members attended the event. BPU president Jasmine Rucker opened the vigil by reflecting on the events of the past few weeks.

Cynthia Cooper, associate professor of molecular genetics and faculty advisor to BPU, spoke at the event as well. She expressed feelings of grief and confusion over the events that had occurred.

Cooper said that it was hard to know what to feel in the wake of the violence, but that it was important to work together to heal and solve issues of race. Her message was one of unity, saying “When did ‘black lives matter’ become ‘blue lives don’t matter?’”

BPU member Dexter Hamilton then spoke, and read the names of the victims of the officer involved shootings and the Dallas police officers killed in the line of duty. Hamilton also read short biographies of the victims before all in attendance held a moment of silence.

“The scope of these problems are deeper than black and white, police officer and civilian,” Hamilton said, and encouraged community members to come together to “ponder ways to prevent this from happening.”

Cecelia Towner, founder of the Vancouver chapter of Black Lives Matter, also spoke at the vigil. She said that the best way to stop violence between police and black communities was to reach out to each side with love, and to not foster division.

Finally, Amanda Shannahan of the Student Diversity Center furthered the message of reaching across community lines. She stated that everyone should reach out and learn about diverse communities, in the hope that people can become better allies.

After the vigil, attendees were able to stay and discuss ways to recover from the wave of violence, as well as ways to prevent such events from happening in the future.

Listed below are the names of the victims of the officer-involved shootings and the police officers killed in Dallas. Also included are the names of those officers killed in Baton Rouge several days after the vigil was held on campus.

  • Cpl. Lorne Ahrens
  • Philando Castile
  • Deputy Brad Garafola
  • Officer Matthew Gerald
  • Officer Montrell Jackson
  • Officer Michael Krol
  • Sergeant Michael Smith
  • Alton Sterling
  • Officer Brent Thompson
  • Officer Patrick Zamarripa
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