Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2014

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Crowd gathers to rally for change, remember Missouri teen Michael Brown

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Steve Marcus

People hold candles during a vigil for Michael Brown at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Carey Avenue Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Brown, 18, was shot and killed by a police officer Aug. 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.

Michael Brown Vigil on MLK

Derric Marshall, 7, holds a sign during a vigil for Michael Brown at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Carey Avenue Thursday, August 28, 2014. Brown, 18, was shot and killed by a police officer Aug. 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. Launch slideshow »

They sang hymns, lit candles and hoisted cardboard signs Thursday evening beneath a statue of Martin Luther King as the sun dipped into a fiery horizon.

Reacting to the Aug. 9 shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., the 200 people who gathered at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Carey Avenue in North Las Vegas had a message for police:

Stop targeting young black men, stop the militarization of local law enforcement and start holding officers more accountable.

"Racial profiling comes from a lack of knowledge," said Leslie Turner, who led efforts to hold Thursday's vigil and rally. "We're reaching out to get (police) to know other cultures."

Several protesters said they want Metro Police to start making changes in policing tactics — among them, requiring all officers to wear on-body cameras. The police department is developing a pilot program for the devices, and participation is voluntary, except for officers hired after July 11, 2013.

Similar demonstrations have been occurring across the country since Brown, 18, was fatally shot while unarmed. Many have protested his death via social media — Thursday's gathering, in fact, was born from a brief post on Turner's Facebook wall in which she urged people to gather for a peaceful protest on the 51st anniversary of King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

"Justice for Mike Brown is the agenda. Period!" she wrote Aug. 23, adding the hashtag #DontShootLV.

News about the rally spread quickly, and within days a group of 20 strangers gathered at Turner's home to help plan the event.

"I've been following the story in the news, and it's a very emotional topic for me," said Angela Brulee, 35, who attended the rally with her four young children. "Young black men are being targeted. Is one of my sons next?"

Marvin Norwood II, 22, who heard about the event through his UNLV fraternity, said he showed up to encourage the community to vote and become more involved in civic discussion.

"We're very much lacking in voter participation," Norwood said. "Education is key."

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