Robert Ramirez carried a sign that said: "Hands Up Don't Shoot."
He was among a throng of protesters gathered in Eastlake Park in Phoenix as part of the Nationwide Day of Rage, a nationally coordinated effort to protest the shooting death of Michael Brown and subsequent turmoil between police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.
More than 20 people, representing a variety of races and ages, gathered in the park yesterday for the event. Many of the protesters wore masks or bandanas to partially obscure their faces.
The protesters came for many reasons, but there was consensus. All called for the arrest of Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown; several called for mandatory dashboard cameras in officers' cars or for lapel-pin cameras on officers themselves; and the group expressed a general call for major changes in police interaction with citizens, though these calls ranged in severity from suggestions that police receive better training to cries for the whole-scale abolition of police forces.
Ramirez is a senior at ASU. This was his first protest. "I think, largely, the police are good," he said. "They are trying to do their jobs. But they are trained to use almost excessive force. If not given almost complete control over the situation, they will take it by force."
Ramirez is troubled by what he's seen in Ferguson: "When they instill a curfew without the people's consent and then enforce it with that level of force, in my opinion that's no different than declaring martial law."
Coi Smith wore a shirt that said: "Listen to the People." She said she's witnessed Tempe Police using excessive force. Smith said she's sick of the shooting of African-American citizens by police. "It's a genocide. It's an epidemic. And it needs to be addressed."
Garrett Scrivner wore a white polo shirt that said "Don't Shoot" on the front and "Arrest Me, I'm Black" on the back.
"I don't think it's just about Mike Brown," he said. "It's about Jonathan Ferrell, Oscar Grant, it's about all of them. It's not just 'Oh, one more.' That's the last one," he said.
"I came out here because I don't want to have to talk to my kids about how they're going to be looked at differently," Scrivner said. "I don't have kids yet, but when I do, I don't want to have to have that talk."
Scrivner said he understands the anger coming out of Ferguson. "They're getting fed a spoonful of hate every day," he said.
Noah Makara, originally from Chicago, said he loves living in Arizona because it has some of the most open gun laws in the country. But Makara sees himself as a responsible gun owner, and what he's seen from the police in incidents like Brown's shooting just doesn't make sense to him.
"I exercise my right to carry," he said. "But it should be a last resort. Violence is not the answer. It shouldn't be used as a first resort. It should be used as a last."
The gathering was the first in a series of such events taking place in Phoenix in the next few days.
On Saturday afternoon, a rally is scheduled at 1 p.m. outside US Airways Center downtown. That group is to hold a family-friendly peace walk afterward from 2 to 3 p.m. Organizers ask participants to wear white.
On Saturday evening, a second gathering is scheduled to take place. Protesters are asked to wear black for this event. "An attack on Ferguson is an attack on Phoenix," the flyer for it reads. The gathering is to begin at 8 p.m. at the corner of North Central Avenue and East Van Buren Street.
On Sunday, a town hall meeting with Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia and Mayor Greg Stanton is scheduled at the civic building at Steele Indian School Park at 2 p.m. The panel discussion is slated to address the events in Ferguson, as well as a recent officer-involved shooting in Phoenix. Last week, mentally ill Michele Cusseaux was killed by a Phoenix police officer asked to conduct a welfare check on her. Garcia has referred the case to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
Yesterday's protest lasted several hours. After the first hour or so, 13 protesters left the park and marched through streets. As they walked, they chanted: "No justice, no peace, fuck the police" and "Hey, hey, ho, ho, killer cops have got to go."
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