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Dallas Protest Organizer Expresses Condolences To Victims' Families

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now we turn to one of the organizers of last night's protest in Dallas. Cory Hughes helped coordinate the event, and it was nearly over when the shootings began. Then, the night took an even more surreal turn for him. The Dallas Police Department tweeted a photo of his brother saying they wanted to question him as a person of interest, and his brother was later cleared of any suspicion. Cory Hughes, thank you for joining us.

CORY HUGHES: Hey, man. Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: Now, you organized this rally, I understand, out of a sense of frustration over the killings in Louisiana and Minnesota. What is going through your mind now after these police officers were killed at the event?

HUGHES: We have a couple of things. Number one, we're heartbroken for the officers and the families that lost a loved one in an event that was peaceful, an event that was never designed or organized to perpetuate harm or crime or violence. And so that's the first emotion that we feel.

The second is a sense of frustration, realizing that one of the reasons that we were having this protest was to kind of create awareness for equality, for African-American men when pulled over by police officers. And so to go from protesting for the people that don't have voices to being prime suspects at a shooting was, you know, quite the turn of events.

SHAPIRO: Can you tell me what it was like when you thought for a moment that your brother was wanted as a suspect? He was in fact wanted for questioning. How did this all play out?

HUGHES: Well, number - again, I didn't think that he was wanted. It was verified that he wanted. So the way it played out was, you know, after the shooting when the shooter started to shoot, I found the nearest police officer, and I made my brother turn over his firearm to an officer because I didn't want him to be misidentified.

SHAPIRO: So you had seen on Twitter that police were looking for your brother. Is that right?

HUGHES: Absolutely. Well, actually, I had friends that were downtown with us that came to me and approached me and said, hey, Mark is all over the national media as a prime suspect. And so that's how I was made aware of him being wanted to be questioned by Dallas Police Department.

SHAPIRO: And he was carrying a firearm because Texas is a state where you're allowed to do that, and it's not uncommon.

HUGHES: Yeah. And it's not just Texas, but we have a Second Amendment right, a constitutional right to bear arms. But, absolutely, Texas is an open-carry state. And so, you know, we were peacefully protesting. He had his firearms, and we were, you know, interacting with the police officers - the police officers as we marched on the rally. And then, you know, there was just a strange turn of events.

SHAPIRO: You've worked closely with Black Lives Matter. Do you worry that what happened in Dallas last night could have a negative impact on the movement?

HUGHES: I don't think it'd have a negative impact on the movement because I think, you know - one thing I think the majority of the media has done is separated this event from Black Lives Matter. I think that many people, you know, are intelligent enough or connected enough or knowledgeable enough to know that Black Lives Matter is not about violence, but we're about equality, about peace.

SHAPIRO: You said before the rally began last night how frustrated you were that the shootings had not ended the killing of black men by police. Where do you think the movement needs to go from here?

HUGHES: Well, I think the movement continues to go in the same direction it's going. You know, demanding more open investigation as it relates to police officers that kill black men. You know, one of the things that we demand is we wonder why is it that it takes me, as a civilian - if I kill someone, I'm arrested and questioned the same day, but an officer gets 30 days to come up with his story.

And so those are some of the things that we're demanding to be changed because we don't think that the DA in the same city can give an unbiased investigation against the officers that they work with on a daily basis. So these are some of the things that we're, you know - we want to see some of the systematic racism and oppression to be changed that is very prevalent in this country.

SHAPIRO: That's Cory Hughes, one of the organizers of last night's event in Dallas, speaking with us on a cell phone from his car. Thanks very much for joining us.

HUGHES: Thank you, sir. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.