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Pastor At Dallas Rally Says Crowd Was Dispersing When Gunshots Rang Out

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's talk now to the Reverend Michael W. Waters, founder and senior pastor of Joy Tabernacle A.M.E. Church in Dallas, Texas. He was at the march last night in downtown Dallas. Reverend, thanks for coming on this morning. We appreciate it.

MICHAEL WATERS: Good morning, humbled to be on with you.

GREENE: You know, I was just hearing from my colleague there, Gene Demby, talk about that it's hard to define a protest like last night's - not necessarily Black Lives Matter, a lot of different groups there. What brought you out onto the streets last night?

WATERS: I was bought out by a growing concern that touched many communities. If you were there last night, you actually saw a picture of America. There were white individuals. There were black individuals, Latino, Asian, older, younger, Jew, Gentile, Muslim, all persons who had been touched by the tragedies unfolding across this nation who needed the space and time to grieve together.

GREENE: And I guess it's worth saying there were the police as well. I mean, they were out there trying to protect you, I imagine. Is that the way you saw - were they part of sort of the community out there last night?

WATERS: The police have been a very active and supportive part in supporting activism here in Dallas. Any time that I've personally been part of a rally or march or protest, the Dallas Police Department has been there to protect, to ensure that the march or the rally was orderly, and to ensure that everyone made it home safely. And, in fact, they were there last night very actively in conversation and interaction with the organizers making sure that everyone made it to where they needed to make it to even as we were protesting and rallying for these concerns.

GREENE: And can you just take me to when this rally turned violent?

WATERS: Well, in all actuality, the rally and the march was over. We had a moment of silence on behalf of those who had been lost. We gave direction to the crowd as given to us by the police department in the ways in which to move back to our vehicles. We were actually moving up the road to where the rally began. People were on their way home. And it's as we were dispersing that gunshots began to ring out.

GREENE: What does the violence last night and the killings of these police officers - what does that all mean for the movement going forward - the Black Lives Matter movement and movements like yours?

WATERS: I can't speak on behalf of all movements, but as someone who ascribes to the lessons and philosophies of Dr. Martin King, Jr., I will suggest that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. All lives matter. We declare black lives matter, but indeed all lives matter. No life is greater than the other. And as we advocate for black lives mattering, we're actually talking about a human family and making sure that there's total recognition of everyone's value.

We are deeply grieved. And we are very concerned. And our hearts go out to the families of the officers whose lives were lost. In no way would any peaceable person endorse or support this activity. And another point that's important is that as these snipers were shooting, they were shooting in and towards a very large crowd. Any and everybody could have been hit at that time. And so it was a very violent and volatile situation for everyone who was gathered.

GREENE: You going to be preaching this weekend on Sunday?

WATERS: I will be preaching this Sunday.

GREENE: Just briefly, what are going to say?

GREENE: Well, that's in formation and development now. But one thing I know that I will say is that we need each other. And together, I believe, we can make it through this. That if we pull together, love one another, work together in unity and justice, we can and will become the type of nation and society that we should be. So I'll preach love, I'll preach unity and I'll preach togetherness in our community.

GREENE: Reverend, I know it was a difficult night. Thank you very much for talking to us. We appreciate it.

WATERS: Bless you. Pray for Dallas please.

WATERS: That is the Reverend Michael Waters, the founder and senior pastor of Joy Tabernacle A.M.E. Church in Dallas, Texas, asking all of us to pray for that city, which has been through so much over the last hours. And we'll be following this story all morning long here on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.