Black Lives Matter marches in Phoenix canceled due to violent threats, organizer says

On August 26, protesters gathered in Phoenix once again amid renewed anger over police brutality and racism, but planned marches were cancelled before it began.

Families demand end to police violence outside Phoenix City Hall

The protest in Downtown Phoenix took place as the Phoenix City Council met for the first time since taking a break earlier in the summer.

Those who took part in the protest had say they want:

  • Officers involved in police shootings to be fired
  • Use of Force Incident Reports, as well as unedited body camera footage, to be released to families within 72 hours following the incident
  • Families of those injured or killed by police be allowed to see said footage and documents, 48 hours before the public does.

At the event in Downtown Phoenix, The families of Ryan Whitaker, Francisco Valdez, Dion Humphrey, James Garcia, Muhammed Muhaymin and Alejandro Hernandez all stood together in solidarity.

"They aimed for his heart. Why did they aim for his heart? Now his heart has a condition he may even have to go through heart surgery," said William Humphrey, Dion Humphrey's father.

"Begged for his life and said 'Allah please help me,' and it's an admission of guilt when an officer says 'Allah? He can't help you now,'" said Muhaymin's sister, Mussalina Muhaymin.

"There was a laser pointed on my brother's back while he's submitting," said Katie Baeza, sister of Whitaker. "This is what a trained officer does, so don't tell me they need more training."

Similar to the march that was planned for Camelback Road, Viri Hernandez, Director with Poder in Action says the march that was scheduled for Downtown Phoenix was also cancelled due to continued threats.

"This morning, there was also a physical visit to our office. There's been physical targeting of individuals and people saying they're willing to die for police," said Hernandez.

Hernandez says supporters of Phoenix Police and the police union have used intimidation tactics to stop peaceful protests.

"This is definitely infringing on our rights to protest and our rights to freedom of speech," said Hernandez.

Smaller group still gathered to protest despite march cancellation

Besides the protest in Downtown Phoenix, a march was supposed to begin at around 7:00 p.m. in the area of Central Avenue and Camelback Road. That march was also cancelled due to reported threats of physical, gun violence.

Organizers say they weren't able to guarantee safety, therefore, canceling the march.

Despite the march's cancellation, a smaller group still showed up in the area of Central and Camelback to demand racial justice.

"It’s disappointing, but we figured if we can’t march, we’d show up and stand on the corner and still fight for the cause," said one protester.

The planned march, even though it was eventually cancelled, did prompt some businesses along Camelback Road to close up early.

“The landlord called me and because we face Camelback, we were worried about things happening, like they did in Scottsdale, so I closed early," said a woman with Sushi Tokoro.

Phoenix Police officials respond

In response to the alleged threats, Phoenix Police officials say their detectives have investigated, and have not been able to identify any specific individuals or any credible threats in connection with the posts.

"The department will continue to monitor and assess any threats that come to our attention," Phoenix Police officials said, in the statement.

Protests took place amid furor over Black man's shooting in Wisconsin

In recent days, ongoing furorover police brutality was reignited across the country, following the shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin on August 23.

According to the Associated Press, Jacob Blake was shot by an officer, since identified as Rusten Sheskey, after officers first unsuccessfully used a Taser and as Blake leaned into his vehicle during an incident, citing a news release by the police agency. State agents later recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of the vehicle, the release said. A search of the vehicle located no additional weapons.

According to the family's attorney, Black is not likely to walk again following the shooting.

The shooting set off nights of unrest in Kenosha, which is located midway between Milwaukee and Chicago. It also set off protests in other cities, such as Atlanta.

Protests in Wisconsin turn deadly

On August 25, protests turned deadly when two people were shot dead during the protest.

“I just killed somebody,” the gunman could be heard saying at one point during the rampage that erupted just before midnight. 

The suspect, since identified as Kyle Rittenhouse, was arrested in Illinois the next day, and accused of first-degree murder.

According to witness accounts and video footage, police apparently let the young man responsible for the shootings walk past them with a rifle over his shoulder with his hands in the air as members of the crowd were yelling for him to be arrested because he had shot people.

As for why the gunman was allowed to leave, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth portrayed a chaotic, high-stress scene, with screaming, chanting, nonstop radio traffic and “people running all over the place" — conditions that can cause “tunnel vision” among law officers.