Subscribe for 17¢ / day

About two dozen people gathered Tuesday evening to show remorse for the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a black boy from Cleveland who was killed by police in 2014.

On Monday, an Ohio grand jury declined to indict the white officer who shot Rice. Just seconds after exiting his patrol car, officer Timothy Loehmann fired on Rice, who was holding a toy pellet gun.

A day after the grand jury announcement, protests had formed in cities like New York and Cleveland.

The gathering in Billings, held by the local grassroots group Not In Our Town, was dubbed a vigil. Attendees held candles on the Yellowstone County Courthouse lawn as the temperature dropped to the low teens.

A few people spoke to the crowd, offering messages that at times memorialized Rice but more often decried what many view as a system that stacks deadly odds against minority citizens.

"What happened was wrong," said Aaron Wallace. "The decision was wrong. The grand jury was wrong."

A forceful speech was given by the Rev. Mike Mulberry, senior minister at First Church Billings. He said that the situation wouldn't have been deadly if Rice weren't black. He asked people to make their voices heard.

Eran Thompson said that as the father of a 12-year-old boy, it's hard to feel disconnected from Rice's death. 

He joined the call for activism, saying that nobody is guiltless with inaction. Drawing on a repeated narrative in America of black victims dying at the hands of white law enforcement, he asked for an institutional change.

"We've got to march. We've got to fight. We've got to vote," Thompson said.

Rice's story will fan the national conversation around racial profiling and police operations in the wake of multiple incidents, and a legal battle will continue for those involved in the Cleveland case. The Associated Press reported that a lawsuit, a federal case and an department investigation are all pending.

Many are angry after these incidents, said Fitzgerald Clark at Tuesday's event in Billings. But he focused his oratory on the subject of love.

Clark said that love should be the fuel for the various movements that have started across the nation. Like others, he asked that the voices of those movements join to bring change.

"When we stand up for our brothers, we stand up for ourselves," Clark said.


General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.