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Lining the banks of the San Antonio River Saturday night, people placed paper lanterns on the rippling water, forming clusters of candlelight in the dark.
More than 100 people gathered at the Arneson River Theatre on Saturday to honor the lives of young men killed by San Antonio police officers. Organized by Reliable Revolutionaries, the Healing Home vigil featured musicians and poets who lent their artistic talents to remember Marquise Jones, Charles “Chop” Roundtree, Norman Cooper, Jesse Aguirre, Marcus McVae, Antronie Scott, and all those who have been killed by police officers in the San Antonio area.
In attendance were family members of the victims, who spoke about their lost loved ones and urged the crowd to keep demanding justice.
Antronie Scott Jr. thanked the listening crowd for their presence and support, especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. His father, Antronie Scott, was 36 when he was killed by a police officer in 2016. Like most of the people who were being memorialized on Saturday, he was Black.
“A part of me is gone,” Scott said. “It’s hard living day-to-day life without your father.”
Charles “Chop” Roundtree was 18 when he was shot and killed by police officers in 2018. He was beloved by two families, said his adoptive mother, Bernice Roundtree, who attended Saturday’s event with his biological mother, Patricia Slack. They both spoke of his easy smile, his sense of humor, and his love for his family.
“That night, Oct. 17, they took something from me, from us, that we can never get back,” Roundtree said through tears. “They took that joy. They took that smile I’m not going to see anymore.”
She said she appreciated the chance to speak about her son from the perspective of someone who loved him.
“These people got to know a little bit about our son from us,” Roundtree said. “Not what they see on TV and whatnot.”
But even as Roundtree and the families of other police brutality victims voiced their gratitude to the audience, they repeated their frustration about the need to return to protests.
“I hate that we have to be here under these circumstances,” Roundtree said. “I hate that this is happening every day. Every day it’s something different, somebody else’s baby getting taken. This needs to stop. … There’s nothing we can do. Unless we fix the police department, there’s nothing that can change.”
Jourdyn “Jeaux” Parks, one of the founders of Reliable Revolutionaries, told the families that they were not alone in the push for police reform. Though Saturday’s event was billed as a vigil, elements of protests still emerged. Chants of “No justice, no peace” occasionally rang through the air.
“I wanted to remind people why we are out here, why we are angry,” Parks said. “We didn’t just wake up one morning and decide we didn’t like the police.”
Though downtown San Antonio still has not returned to pre-pandemic levels of activity, people strolled by the Arneson River Theatre throughout the evening, and tourists skimmed by in colorful Go Rio Cruises boats every few minutes. Only a few people stayed to watch or raised their fists in solidarity; most simply moved on.
“It’s a different life for them than for us,” Roundtree said. “We are on two totally different sides. We’re here still fighting and going through this, trying to get justice for our son.”
Parks said after she met with family members of police brutality victims, she realized that they still mourned their deaths years later. These losses should infuriate everyone, she said.
“If all lives matter, why are you not outraged that Marquise Jones is gone?” she asked. “I wanted to remind San Antonio why we are fighting for what it is we are fighting for.”
All of these victims had families, and all of the Black and brown residents of San Antonio are people, humans, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers, Parks said.
“We mourn with each and every one of you,” she said.
Though Antronie Scott was killed more than four years ago, the pain of losing him has not eased, his son said.
“It’s hard to have someone on a shirt, not present with you, not calling you,” Scott Jr. said. “I still, to this day on my other phone, have my dad’s voicemail. When I get down, I listen to it. My dad’s last words to me were, ‘I love you son. I’ll see you soon.’ And I carry that.”