Thousands gather in Baton Rouge for peaceful memory of Alton Sterling
BATON ROUGE, La. – Thousands of people gathered at the intersection of North Foster Drive and Fairfields Avenue Wednesday night at the spot where 37-year-old Alton Sterling lost his life.
"No justice. No peace,” chanted Veda McAlister.
Her voice was nearly gone as she spoke in the parking lot in front of the Triple S Food Mart where her nephew lost his life.
She sat beside the table where Sterling sold CDs the morning he died.
"I want people to know that he was slain. He was murdered by the Baton Rouge PD. And we want justice, we want justice, we want justice. Because no man should have to die whether he's black, white, green, yellow, brown, nobody should have to die like that," said McAlister.
People in the crowd said anything could have happened. But it didn't. It was peaceful.
Two videos showed how Sterling was on the ground wrestling with two Baton Rouge police officers early Tuesday morning.
The next thing that happened was one officer pulled out his gun and repeatedly fired it into Sterling’s chest. The father of five died.
One woman said she, and others at the protest, were determined not to let this become another Ferguson, Missouri, where a shooting led to vandalism, rioting and arson.
People of all ages, races and backgrounds gathered for a vigil that lasted late into the night and into the early morning Thursday. Some people carried signs saying “Black Lives Matter.” Others chanted.
At one point, a marching band came up Fairfields. Others released red balloons in Sterling’s memory. There was the constant sound of people honking their car and truck horns in memory of Sterling.
"This could be our dad, our brother, our cousin. It's just a sad situation that we live in a country where this stuff happens," Mekayla Whitenburg, from Atlanta, said.
She and a friend drove to Baton Rouge from Atlanta to see where it happened and to try to understand why.
"We can't even be over one person before it's another person. I think that's my biggest issue here. It's not even all the way that this is happening. It's just that it's happening every day. And we just supposed to keep calm?" Selema Patton said.
The only uniformed police KPRC observed came when an emergency medical services crew arrived with a fire truck and an ambulance. Mourners said a similar gathering Tuesday night lasted until past 2 a.m. Wednesday. Both were peaceful.
The view from the vigil in #batonrouge for #altonsterlingPosted by KPRC2 Ryan Korsgard on Wednesday, July 6, 2016
When the sun came up Thursday morning, the intersection was clean. No rioting. No burned buildings. People went home, went to school or went back to work hoping their message demanding justice lives beyond just this week.
Sterling’s aunt promised not to stay quiet, even with her strained voice.
"They need to cut it out. Because we're not going to stop. We're going to keep coming," McAlister said.