Prayer vigil for Dallas Police takes place in San Jose

In San Jose on Sunday, hundreds of people gathered outside city hall to speak out against the deaths of African American men in police shootings nationwide.  There were two very distinct events, however; one was a “Black Lives Matter” rally, and the other was a prayer vigil organized by local religious leaders.

“We’re angry, we’re hurt, we’re sick of it. We are still asking for freedom in a country we built,” said a protester named Angel from San Jose.  Religious leaders appeared to share the frustration.  Pastor Oscar Dace of the Bibleway Christian Center said, “I am tired of watching people die on TV. I think we have created a culture that has cultivated this kind of hatred, this kind of bitterness.”

But religious leaders criticized those protesters who wore masks to hide their faces, and held signs that read “Blue Lives Murder.”  Many protesters showed an outward hostility toward the police.

“That’s not going to solve the problem,” Pastor Dace said.  “You don’t want to exacerbate an already tense situation by making the police feel like everybody’s against them.”

As protesters marched from City Hall, the prayer vigil turned its attention to the tragedy in Dallas, and the deadly ambush against five police officers. In attendance was Katherine Decker, whose son was a San Jose police officer killed in the line of duty in 2015 while responding to a 911 call of a suicidal man. 

“My heart just aches so much because I know that heartache that you have when you lose that fallen officer, they’re just gone like that,” Decker said.  As police officers followed protesters down the street, Decker said she could imagine what might be going through their minds.  “The police are walking around fearful for their lives.  I’ve talked to police officers all the way in Florida and they’re like we don’t know when it might hit us.”

One person who spoke at both events was San Jose city councilman Raul Peralez.  Peralez spent eight years on the police force before going into city politics, and said he agrees with the core message of Black Lives Matter.

“The point is that black lives matter is a cause that we must support, whether it’s at the city or internally with the police department,” Peralez said.  He added that it’s important to keep the conversation going and for people on all sides of the issue to find common ground. “Anger and resentment, that gets in the way of nonviolence and in the way of building that bridge but you have to start somewhere.”