Caribbean music played from neon-lit speakers as the sun set outside the Dallas County Criminal Justice Center on Wednesday night.
The music, and the crowd of about 50 people listening to it, were in honor of Botham Jean and the island of Saint Lucia, where he and his family are from.
Hours before, a jury had sentenced former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger to 10 years in prison for Botham Jean’s murder. After the sentence was announced about 4 p.m., crowds in the hallway outside the courtroom started chanting, “No justice, no peace.” Several women addressed the dozens of reporters in the hallway, saying the sentence was a slap on the wrist.
Different speakers addressed the crowd outside the courthouse for about an hour. At about 8 p.m., protesters started marching through downtown Dallas.
Many speakers at the rally, which had been planned earlier in the week, said Guyger’s sentence was too light. Some said the fact that Guyger is a white former police officer granted her leniency.
Activist Dominique Alexander opened up the rally by talking about how many people in the crowd had marched for justice “too many times.” He called Guyger’s sentence “a slap in the face.”
He also berated Dallas police, specifically citing Chief Renee Hall’s statement that the department would investigate allegations made during testimony in the trial. Hall spoke at a live-streamed press conference at 6 p.m. at the Dallas Police Department.
“There was testimony as to allegations of tampering with in-car video cameras,” Hall said at the press conference. “There was failure to render aid during a use-of-force incident, a shooting, and multiple other things that came out in that trial. And so we’re not backing away from those things. We have to first find out what, if any of those things have merit and then move forward.”
Allison Jean, Botham Jean’s mother, said her family saw corruption in the investigation of her son’s death. While talking to reporters after Guyger’s sentencing, she said there was contamination of the crime scene, and Guyger had been poorly trained by the Dallas Police Department. The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and police department.
Activist Omar Suleiman also spoke at the rally. He mentioned Brandt Jean, who hugged Guyger after he spoke to her from the witness stand following the sentencing. Brandt Jean, Botham Jean’s younger brother, said he wished nothing bad for Guyger and did not even want her to go to prison.
“If you are going to amplify the grace of Brandt Jean, then you better amplify the voice of his mother, who said only a few minutes after that that we need to continue to seek reform of the Dallas Police Department,” Suleiman said. “We do not see grace and accountability in contradiction.”
Allison Jean said the Dallas Police Department needs to train its officers better, and that the city of Dallas needs to “clean up inside.”
Thirty to 50 protesters marched through the streets of downtown Dallas at 8:30 pm. Some chanted “Whose streets? Our streets” and Guyger’s jail booking number. Dozens of police cars followed the marchers through the city for several hours.
When protesters would either block an intersection or walk in the street, officers would warn them on loudspeakers that they needed to stay on the sidewalk, or they would be arrested. Several times, officers got out of cars and followed behind protesters on foot.
Some protesters shouted questions at officers. Others encouraged the group to keep moving and to stay out of the street.
At about 9:35 p.m., several protesters walked in the street near the city courthouse. Officers walked next to the protesters, and someone on a loudspeaker repeated, “Please exit the roadway.”
Officers arrested one woman who was walking in the road and carrying a Saint Lucia flag. Fellow protesters identified her as one of Botham Jean’s friends from the island. She was handcuffed and taken into a police van.
Fellow protesters demanded the woman be released, chanting, “Let her out!”
One of the protest leaders spoke with a Dallas police major away from the group. She said police agreed to release the woman, but said protesters needed to move and could not be in the street. As of 11 p.m., protesters were still waiting on the woman’s release.
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This story was originally published October 2, 2019 8:53 PM.