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May Day marchers in Dallas join forces; downtown shut down

By staff

One injured by police

Dallas, TX – Two groups of protesters took to the streets of downtown here on May 1. One group, led by Mothers Against Police Brutality, Organized Rebellion and other local civil rights groups, was marching in solidarity with the people of Baltimore and against police violence in Dallas. The other marched in support of immigrants and against deportations. Before the night was over, the two groups were marching together.

One protester was run over by a Dallas Police (DPD) car during the march. She was taken to Parkland Hospital, and her current condition is unknown. Protesters reported that DPD vehicles had been following the protesters closely and aggressively all evening and had often driven into the crowd.

Police brutality protesters started their protests in two different places. Some, led by Mothers Against Police Brutality, started near the Frank Crowley Criminal Courthouse, while others started a half mile or so away near the West End DART station.

The immigrant rights march was led by a large number of community organizations and unions including the Texas Organization Project, the SEIU, the Dallas AFL-CIO, Pueblo Sin Fronteras and Jobs with Justice. This protest began near Dallas' city hall, the iconic leaning building designed by I.M. Pei.

In addition to the police murder in Baltimore, police brutality protesters were angered and driven by local events, such as the police killing of Jason Harrison. Jason Harrison was a young Dallas man with schizophrenia. His mother had called the police on him several times when he had episodes, in order to calm him down. He had never been violent. In June of 2014, she called the police one more time. When police arrived, he was holding a screwdriver. Within seconds, they shot him repeatedly, killing him. In April of 2015, after Dallas County's new District Attorney, Susan Hawk, presented the case to a grand jury, the officers involved were ‘no billed’ – effectively cleared of any wrongdoing.

Some protesters carried signs reading, “Free Olinka Green.” Olinka Green is an organizer with Mothers Against Police Brutality and several other Dallas activist groups who, at the time of these protests, was being held yards away from the Frank Crowley Courthouse in the Lew Sterrett Jail. Green had been arrested on April 30, while peacefully walking through downtown Dallas holding out flyers about police violence. After being rudely confronted by DART police while walking through a DART station, Green went back to take pictures of one of the officers. The officer ran her over with a Segway scooter and pinned her against a fence while spraying mace in her face and yelling “Stop hitting me.” Green was clinging to the fence, trying not to fall, because she has serious back problems and could have been badly injured. She was later taken to Parkland Hospital and then to the jail, where she falsely charged with assaulting two officers, and her bail was set at $30,000. Through a community fund raising effort, enough money was raised that she made bail late on the night of May 1.

Participants in the immigration march chanted slogans in both Spanish and English, against deportation and the breaking up of families. A small number of marchers sang the Internationale in Spanish. The protest included young radicals and older, working class immigrants, marching side by side in unity.

The protests paused in Belo Garden Park to hear speeches. Here, some speakers were received better than others. A speaker promoting the Democratic Party as a solution to police brutality was shouted down by protesters. Another speaker, a participant in the anti-police brutality movement who some protesters believe to be closely connected to the police, was heckled by some younger people.

The marches both began at 5:00 p.m. and ended sometime around 10:00 p.m. The groups started at their respective locations but had joined together by 7:00 p.m. The joining together of the anti-police brutality protesters and the immigrant rights protesters was described by some activists as an extremely moving moment.

The march went back and forth through downtown, over a bridge across the Trinity west of downtown, and then back to downtown across the Margarent Hunt Hill Bridge, the city's new neofuturist bridge designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and sometimes referred to as the boondoggle bridge or the bridge to nowhere.

Protesters marched through the streets escorted by police, but at times shut down entire streets in defiance of their police escorts, retreating however before arrests were made. No arrests were reported.

There were several armed contingents involved in the protests. Some were associated with the New Black Panther Party and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club.

There was also one small contingent of white people from Open Carry Tarrant County who brought rifles and shotguns and marched alongside the main protest. These marchers claimed solidarity with the anti-police brutality cause, but also said that their guns were to “prevent looting.”

Open Carry Tarrant County is based out of Arlington, and has achieved national and international attention for its confrontational tactics. It was also heavily covered in some local press after one of its members killed her husband and her stepdaughter with a firearm. However, no serious incidents occurred with this group during the march.

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