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Peaceful protest seeks change in community

“I love you. I need you. I need you to survive.”

The words of Bishop Hezekiah Walker’s song filled the east side of the Square Saturday evening during a candlelight vigil and peaceful protest against violence, that was held in front of City Hall.

Local singer Effie Burt and a group of gospel singers led the 200-plus crowd in several rounds of the popular gospel song.

The event, hailed as a “peaceful action of change,” was planned by LaToya Faulk and her friend, Rachel Johnson, who wanted to give the Oxford community a place to come together and mourn recent violence, including police shootings of African American men and the killing of the five police officers in Dallas, Texas.

“We’re here tonight in part to mourn and reflect,” Johnson said at the vigil. “Many of us feel deep sorrow in light of the events the past two weeks. We’ll grieve together tonight … I hope you feel comforted, and as you stand here tonight, know your community is grieving along side of you.”

Pray for healing

Faulk said it’s no longer enough to continue on as “business as usual.”

“We must find a safe space to grieve and then get to work,” she said. “We all have a part in making a change.”

Pastor Christopher Diggs lead the group in prayer and asked God to help the wounds of the nation.

“Help our country, state and local leaders understand there’s a reason we’re called the United States of America, for together we stand and divided we fall,” he said.

Two local educators read poems before candles were passed out to the crowd as short biographies of the victims of recent shootings were read for Dallas police officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol and Patrick Zamarripa and DART police officer Brent Thompson; and Alton Sterling and Philando Castile who were shot and killed by police officers recently.

Min. Gail Stratton closed the event with prayer and again repeated the words of Walker’s song through tears.

“We lift up the vision of a world where black lives matter, blue lives matter, gay lives matter, and when that happens, all lives will matter,” she said.

Readers at a peaceful protest and candlelight vigil hug during a prayer in Oxford, Miss. on Saturday, July 16, 2016.The event was held to mourn recent violence, including police shootings of African American men and the killing of five police officers in Dallas. (Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle via AP)

Readers at a peaceful protest and candlelight vigil hug during a prayer in Oxford, Miss. on Saturday, July 16, 2016.The event was held to mourn recent violence, including police shootings of African American men and the killing of five police officers in Dallas. (Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle via AP)

People sing during a peaceful protest and candlelight vigil in Oxford, Miss. on Saturday, July 16, 2016. The event was held to mourn recent violence, including police shootings of African American men and the killing of five police officers in Dallas. (Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle via AP)

People sing during a peaceful protest and candlelight vigil in Oxford, Miss. on Saturday, July 16, 2016. The event was held to mourn recent violence, including police shootings of African American men and the killing of five police officers in Dallas. (Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle via AP)

LaToya Faulk, left, and Rachel Johnson speak during a peaceful protest and candlelight vigil in Oxford, Miss. on Saturday, July 16, 2016.The event was held to mourn recent violence, including police shootings of African American men and the killing of five police officers in Dallas. (Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle via AP)

LaToya Faulk, left, and Rachel Johnson speak during a peaceful protest and candlelight vigil in Oxford, Miss. on Saturday, July 16, 2016.The event was held to mourn recent violence, including police shootings of African American men and the killing of five police officers in Dallas. (Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle via AP)