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Black Lives Matter group holds Boston vigil in wake of shootings

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Boston Police Sgt. John Wright , left, greeted Daunasia Yancey, right, outside the Holding Place for Black Life event on Columbus Ave in Boston, MA on Friday.
Boston Police Sgt. John Wright , left, greeted Daunasia Yancey, right, outside the Holding Place for Black Life event on Columbus Ave in Boston, MA on Friday.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Members of the local black community gathered for a peaceful vigil in the South End on Friday night to mourn two men of color who were fatally shot by police this week in Louisiana and Minnesota and to discuss ways to move forward.

Parts of both deaths were captured in graphic cellphone videos that quickly went public.

Friday's gathering was organized by the Boston and Cambridge chapters of the Black Lives Matter movement and by the community group We Are The Ones Boston.

Daunasia Yancey, founder and lead organizer of Black Lives Matter Boston, said the vigil was an opportunity "for black people to come together to grieve, to mourn, to process the violence that we are seeing daily now from the state, from police officers, against black people."

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DiDi Delgado, an organizer from Black Lives Matter Cambridge, said the groups seek not only to end police brutality against black people, but to advance equity in all aspects of life, including housing, education, and economic opportunity.

Brighton resident Lys Joseph said he came to the vigil because he was concerned about the recent spate of high-profile incidents between police and people of color.

"If something is recurring at a high rate, at an alarming rate ... you have to realize that there's a correlation between the way police are treating people of color all across different regions of America," he said.

Joseph, 24, said he wanted to help figure out ways to make a difference in the community.

The vigil began at Make Shift Boston, a cooperative workspace on Columbus Avenue, and then moved three blocks to the Union United Methodist Church as the crowd swelled to about 200. The gathering was closed to reporters.

More than a dozen police officers, some wearing bulletproof vests, stood outside or followed the crowd in cars as it relocated. The event remained peaceful, though.

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Before the vigil began, Delgado expressed concern about the police presence.

"It's exponentially grown," she said as she eyed a nearby group of officers. "Every five minutes, there's another one. … It's making it more dramatic than it needs to be."

Yancey added, "They're not concerned that there's going to be a problem. They are doing what they continue to do, which is over-police black communities."

The police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge on Tuesday and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn., on Wednesday prompted protests in cities across the country by members and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The movement coalesced in the aftermath of the fatal police shooting nearly two years ago of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and seeks an end to the deaths of black Americans at the hands of police.

At one of Thursday night's protests, in downtown Dallas, a sniper took aim at police, killing five officers and injuring seven more, as well as two civilians. One of the slain officers had been married just weeks earlier; another was a veteran of three tours of duty in Iraq.

Police killed one suspect, a 25-year-old former Army reservist, and arrested several others.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Friday that the Department of Justice is assisting investigators in the Dallas shootings and Castile's death and has opened a civil rights investigation into Sterling's shooting.

On Friday, Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston said his thoughts were with those killed in Dallas and that he prays for the swift recovery of the injured.

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"I unequivocally condemn violence against law enforcement officers," Walsh said in a statement. "Whatever motivated this horrific attack, we should do all we can as a community and a nation to prevent it from inflaming existing tensions around police interactions."

Yancey, who helped organize Friday's vigil, said afterward that it had been "a beautiful event."

"We've been sharing, and healing, and mourning, and grieving with each other," she said. "I feel so blessed to have held this space for us."


Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.