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The Days After: A Nation Reacts To The Week's Violence

By Emma Bowman | NPR
Sunday, July 10, 2016

Last updated July 10, 9:23 a.m. ET

People across the country joined protests and held vigils late this week, following two highly publicized police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. As those incidents dominated headlines and social media, a sniper targeted law enforcement at a peaceful protest in Dallas, killing five police officers and shocking the nation.

On Saturday, President Obama rejected the notion that these latest tragedies portended the country's return to an era of racial brutality.

"You're not seeing riots and you're not seeing police going after people who are protesting peacefully," he said from Warsaw, Poland, where he was attending a NATO summit. "You've seen almost uniformly peaceful protests and you've seen, uniformly, police handling those protests with professionalism."

Here are scenes of protest, prayer and activism from around the country.

Dallas

Since Thursday's shooting left five police officers dead, several blocks of downtown Dallas have been blockaded, with public access to a large part of the area denied. But at many of the street corners with police cars and caution tape keeping people out, area residents have gathered to sit, think, talk, reflect, cry and pray.

"I don't know how I'm supposed to be feeling, or what I'm supposed to be thinking," said music teacher Nora Woolpert, she sat in the grass across the street from one of the blockades. "All I know is that I can't find a reason to leave, but there is no reason to stay. I don't know what I'm looking at. I don't know who I'm supposed to be talking to, or how I'm supposed to process it."

That sentiment has been present all throughout the city: a need to do something, comfort someone, be comforted, paired with a realization that answers for the hard questions this week raised aren't yet knowable for many.

Whether it was outside Dallas Police Department headquarters, where thousands had covered two squad cars with notes, flowers, balloons and candles or all over the city as a multiracial group of Dallas police officers comforted civilians, many in the the city came together in mourning.

It was a direct contradiction to some of the harsh rhetoric to be found online — and often in our nation's politics — over the last few days and months. When a black woman began to shed tears near a squad car, an older white man came to her and wiped them from her cheeks with his hands.

NPR's Sam Sanders reflects on Twitter about his time in Dallas.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and countless other leaders have said that the city needs to enter a time of healing, unite and start having some difficult conversations about race. It remains to be seen whether all three of those challenges will be accepted, but the "unite" part seems to be off to a positive start in the city.

Baton Rouge, La.

In this city where a struggle with police left 37-year-old Alton Sterling dead this week, leaders gathered before a crowd on Friday afternoon, extolling Baton Rouge's civil rights history and urging citizens to use nonviolent civil disobedience to respond to the recent tragedies.

But things boiled over during protests outside the Baton Rouge police headquarters on Friday night. Frozen water bottles were thrown at law enforcement officers, demonstrators tried to block a highway and at least 3 people were arrested for inciting a riot, according to nola.com.

Protests scheduled for Saturday marked the fourth day of demonstrations in the area. The events remained tense and largely non-violent, but led to several arrests as marchers chanting "no justice, no peace, no violent police" walked on the shoulder of a large thoroughfare into the evening.

During the march, police arrested some 30 protesters, officials say, including prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson. He'd been live-streaming the demonstration scene from his smartphone while walking alongside the highway when he was taken into custody.

It's unclear what count Mckesson was booked on. In his Periscope broadcast, an officer is heard instructing Mckesson that if "he gets any closer [to the road] you're going to jail." In footage that follows, Mckesson appears to heed the warning, keeping to the shoulder of the road, behind the white dividing line and away from traffic, moments before he's approached from behind with handcuffs.

WWNO reporter Ryan Kailath was also included in the arrests, the Louisiana member station told NPR. He was booked on count of obstructing a highway, reports The Advocate.

Minnesota

In the three days since the death of 32-year-old school cafeteria supervisor Philando Castile during a traffic stop, demonstrators have remained calm while camped outside of the governor's mansion in St. Paul, Minn.

Gov. Mark Dayton has met with the protestors several times and said he will not order that they be removed.

Saturday evening brought more heated protests, with a march starting from the Governor's Mansion in St. Paul leading to Interstate 94, where police and protesters clashed as the highway was blocked.

Around The Country

About 1,000 people marched in Phoenix on Friday night, and the protest remained calm until demonstrators tried to move onto the interstate, according to The Associated Press. Police closed freeway ramps and used pepper spray and tear gas to deter protesters. A few people threw rocks at police officers hitting their helmets and protective gear, leading to three arrests.

A peaceful march in Los Angeles, led by rappers Snoop Dogg and The Game, ended at the police headquarters, where they met with Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city's police chief. They urged the city's leaders to push for better relations between authorities and minority communities.

In San Francisco, an estimated 2,000 protesters marched from downtown to City Hall, calling for peaceful protest in the face of violence. In Washington, D.C., hundreds gathered in front of the White House, chanting "black lives matter."

People also took to the streets in New York City, starting with speeches in Union Square and then breaking into groups to march across the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn and through Grand Central Terminal, according to The Associated Press.

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