The original plan was a sit-in at NorthPark Center in Dallas.
When the group of Black Lives Matter demonstrators was not allowed in Sunday, members decided to brave hot Texas summer temperatures and march up and down a commercial street.
Dressed in all black, the group marched with fists in the air, stopped at a corner, holding up signs that read, “Will I be next?” and listed the names of Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.
“We’ve been just trying to get our people together, to band together and show our community that we are still standing together for a change,” said Britny Morrison, who organized the protest through a Facebook post.
Across the street, a group of All Lives Matter counterprotesters arrived.
They hoisted their American, Texas and pro-police flags and stared at the Black Lives Matter group opposite them. “We’re here to back the blue,” said protester Chris Rice. “Everybody matters.”
Police who had been accompanying the marchers spoke to both groups about not confronting each other and staying on separate sides of the street. It had all the markings of a tense standoff at best, and possibly something uglier at worst.
But something else happened.
“There’s a lot of tension going on right now,” said Joseph Offutt. “We’re here saying ‘Hey, can we talk to somebody and see if we can get on the same page?’”
On the opposite corner, Black Lives Matter protester Ty Hardaway felt the same way. “How many times have we seen people marching… The difference with this one is, we’re going to bring about change in this way: We’re going to build a dialogue.”
One member from each group met at the sidewalk and shook hands. They talked about how they both want what’s best for Dallas and the people that live there. Offutt told Sam Barnes, one of the Black Lives Matter protesters, “We’ve got to show the rest of the country how we do it in Dallas.” Barnes responded, “Yeah, so we have to stand together.”
Hardaway spoke passionately to the other Black Lives Matter protesters to convince them to cross the street, telling them “God created you and he created my brother over there,” pointing at the counterprotesters across the street. “Are we all on board? Let’s do it.”
They crossed the street and created one of the most improbable scenes imaginable this week. They introduced themselves, they hugged and gathered in a circle. They linked hands, invited a police officer to join them, and they prayed for Dallas together.