A&F Staff Writer
It was a cloudy evening when activists in downtown Asheville held a candlelit vigil for Keith Lamont Scott and other black individuals who were shot by police.
The vigil consisted of mostly silence as people grieved over the recent shooting while still remembering those who died before. A poster surrounded by candles read, ‘Justice for Keith Lamont Scott #blacklivesmatter #charlotte.’
“I was involved with work around Justice for Jerry Williams, who was murdered here in July by police, so I guess thinking a lot about how to create space for folks to grieve when we continuously lose people to extrajudicial killings,” said Hillary Brown, one of the activists who organized the vigil. “Because the work around Jerry Williams was a lot of – there were a lot of actions, but there wasn’t a ton of time just set around grief. So I wanted to set aside time for that and be around other folks feeling this injustice in the same way.”
As the vigil progressed, mourners started quietly singing, “we want justice. Justice for our brothers.” Many were carrying signs reading “Black Lives Matter.”
“This is a systemic problem that we have, so it’s got to change. I couldn’t not be here, I didn’t have a choice of whether I should be here or whether I should not be here. I had to be here and I’ll continue to be here,” said Adrienne Sydney, an Asheville resident.
The probability of an unarmed black resident being shot by police is 3.49 times more likely than an unarmed white resident, according to a study by Cody T. Ross at the University of California.
“It’s like when I got this shirt that says, ‘stop killing black people,’” Sydney said. “I thought I was going to wear it a few times, but I find myself continuing to have to put this on my body because black people continue to be murdered.”
Aid, in terms of food, water and medical supplies were being organized by some individuals to be delivered to Charlotte, Becky Baylor, a 23-year-old Asheville resident said.
“So that’s one thing that, you know, we’re doing, apart from physically going to Charlotte and being a part of those protests,” Baylor said.
The Basilica of St. Lawrence church bells could be heard as it rang throughout downtown. Attendants of the vigil silently stood while they held signs. Cars passed by the silent crowd. Some even slowed down to read the signs. A few drivers honked in support while they passed. One man on a bicycle held up a peace sign as he peddled by.
“My sadness and my confusion about why black-bodied individuals and people of color continue to be oppressed and then murdered. I have to work someway with my body and put my body on the line on the side of the oppressed and be a voice for people who don’t have one,” Sydney said.
Brown discussed how she and others handled the Justice for Jerry campaign for Jerry Walker by asking Walker’s mother what she wanted. Brown said this was a good way to move forward.
“I think as this continues and there continues to be more murders of black folks and the assaults on black bodies. Like the assault that happened to the girl in Hillcrest, white people need to think about how they can put their bodies in the way between black folks and police — between state violence and black bodies,” Brown said.
Sydney offered advice to white individuals who hope to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Just standing up and going to the street and using our voice and continuing to live everyday remembering that these folks no longer get to go home and hug their children or have dinner with their family or wake up,” Sydney said. “I think just trying to stand with our brothers and sisters out here and try to wake other people up who are not aware that this is still happening.”
A few drops of rain fell near the end of the candlelight vigil. Darkness settled over downtown Asheville as the candles remained illuminated around the poster with Keith Lamont Scott’s name.
“I think we need to sit with what a big loss this is,” Brown said. “We lost thousands of people this year to police violence. So sitting with that grief this year, grief is powerful.”