BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Hundreds of people stepped off for the Bridgeport police headquarters as part of a Black Lives Matter march to heal and to ask for change after the killings of black men at the hand of police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota.
Bridgeport native Isa Mujahid, founder of Connecticut Community Organizing for Racial Equality, organized the march after the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling, 37, and Philando Castile, 32, by police. He said he wanted an opportunity for people to share their grief and to lobby for changes in police training and procedures.
"It allows space for the community to heal, to kind of go through their pain, their grief, their sense of being unsafe in this community. And commit to each each other that we are going to protect each other, that we are going to unify as a community," he said.
He had been planning the march before five police officers were shot to death by a lone anti-white, anti-police gunman in Dallas. The suspect, Micah Johnson, 25, was killed by a police robotic bomb after failed negotiations during a standoff after a similar Black Lives Matter march in downtown Dallas.
Mujahid said the Dallas police killings do not make it more difficult to push for reforms in an atmosphere of heightened tension.
"Not as far as I'm concerned," he said.
The Rev. Anthony Bennett, pastor of Mount Aery Baptist Church, said he wanted the event to act as an "acknowledgement of pain and grief and the continued processing of healing."
The deaths of Castile and Sterling join the long list of young men who are gun violence victims, he said.
"Unfortunately it's one of many," Bennett said. "I have to do funerals of young men who have died at the hand of gun violence."
The crowd marched from the church on Frank Street to the police station about a mile away.
The crowd chanted "Black Lives Matter" and "No Excuse for Abuse," among other chants, as a large but discreet police presence maintained traffic control during the march.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who was at the church but left before the march began, called it "a nightmare week."
"What I think is really needed now is to bring folks together across what may divide us, the anger and anguish and try to move beyond blame and bloodshed and listen to one another," he said. "We need to lock arms and lock hearts."
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes also was at the church and participated in the march.
The Rev. Anthony Bennett offered words of comfort after the shootings. Click here to read the story at the Daily Voice.
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