Story highlights

Police officers, activists, relatives of the slain and others came together

Panelists were asked about how to comply with police

CNN  — 

The topic was difficult. The conversation was poignant and candid.

CNN’s Don Lemon hosted a town hall discussion in New York about police and race relations on Wednesday night, a week after police officers killed two black men in shootings that spurred nationwide protests, and a gunman – said to be upset about those deaths – shot and killed five Dallas police officers.

Police officers, activists, relatives of the slain and others came together for the two-hour conversation. Here are some of the most compelling moments:


Those who were close to two people who died last week made appeals for peace. That included Enrique Zamarripa, the father of Dallas police Officer Patrick Zamarripa, one of the five officers killed in an ambush during a protest on July 7.

Enrique Zamarripa shared the stage with Quinyetta McMillon, who shared a son with Alton Sterling, the man who was killed July 5 in a confrontation with police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

McMillon said violence is not an answer. She noted that she had just met the Zamarripa family, but felt unified with them in calling for peace.


Activists and law enforcement officials came on stage next, and engaged in a conversation about whether policing in the United States is biased against blacks.

Col. K.L. Williams, who is black and is the chief of police in Kinloch, Missouri, said that as a young man he’d had so many guns pointed at his head as a young man, he didn’t know how he made it.

“I know I could never change the condition from the outside; I had to go for the inside,” he said. He also said racism was a factor in police departments across the country:

Former Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy, who is white, fielded a question from James Ramsey, a black Harvard graduate student and campus minister, about why it seemed to him that police see black people as more dangerous, and black people’s lives as less valuable:


Panelists were asked about how to comply with police, and about how and whether to tell black children that they should take extra care to be respectful to officers who stop them.

Mark O’Mara, a white CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, had this to say:

Here was a response from Charles Blow, a black man and op-ed columnist for the New York Times.


Sharay Santora, a black woman and hairstylist, was at the event with her 14-year-old son. She told the panel that she feared for his life when she’s not with him.

A black former Chicago police officer, Dimitri Roberts, stood up and apologized to Santora because, he said, the woman didn’t feel protected. He then gave her a hug.


CNN’s Ray Sanchez and Poppy Harlow contributed to this report.