Community members hold vigil for black teenager shot in Berkeley, Missouri

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After the shooting of a black teenager by a police officer in Berkeley, Missouri, about 30 people held a candlelight vigil in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on Wednesday night.

Three activists thought of holding the vigil while watching a livestream of events in Berkeley, Missouri, after the death of Antonio Martin, who was shot by a police officer Tuesday night after allegedly pointing a gun at the officer. The incident occurred a few miles away from Ferguson, Missouri — where unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot by an officer — and has lent a new spark to ongoing protests over recent police killings of black men.

During the vigil, attendees held a moment of silence that lasted three and a half minutes because they had heard reports that Martin had been left on the ground for three and a half hours. They also shared experiences and hopes for the future of their cause.

“It was just kind of an organic little gathering,” said Pan Ellington, a recent UC Berkeley graduate and one of those who first spread news of the vigil.

About two and a half weeks ago, hundreds of protesters marched through Berkeley and Oakland for several consecutive nights of demonstrations. But Ellington said she intended for the vigil to be more of a show of solidarity and remembrance than a “big march.”

“We wanted to acknowledge the fact that obviously another young person of color was killed at the hands of a police officer,” Ellington said.

At a press conference Wednesday, the mayor of Berkeley, Missouri, discouraged comparisons between Martin’s death and the shooting in Ferguson, saying that surveillance footage appeared to show the officer being threatened with a gun.

But some vigil attendees remained skeptical of the actions of the officer who shot Martin. Phillip Wilson, a Solano Community College student who was also involved in initiating the vigil, noted that the officer was reportedly not using a body camera, despite having access to one.

Moving forward, Wilson said he would like protesters’ demands for police accountability to be more organized so that outcry over police actions can be accompanied with clear aims.

“I hope that people don’t lose the momentum that’s going right now,” Wilson said. “I hope to keep his movement a movement, and not just a moment in time, because it’s something that definitely needs attention.”


Melissa Wen is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @melissalwen.