ASHEVILLE – The question isn't so much why their protests matter, when in reality the deaths of two unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers happened hundreds of miles away. The real question is what happens next locally to keep frustrations from boiling over into violence as they have in other parts of the country, community activists say. "The environment here is ripe for it," said James Lee, a minister at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church. "It's almost like having an open flame in a room with gas. It's only a matter of time before something explodes."
Hundreds of people have joined in at least seven rallies across Buncombe County since a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown and another grand jury in New York City failed to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, who was allegedly selling loose cigarettes.
In some cases, demonstrators held pictures of Reynolds High football player A.J. Marion, who was killed in 2013 by an Asheville police officer following a residential break-in, report of a gunshot and ensuing foot chase. Like Brown, Marion was unarmed and the officer was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
Black Americans have spent decades under siege, said Tyrone Greenlee, executive director of Christians for a United Community, a local nonprofit interdenominational collaboration of churches that works to address the root causes of racism and racial disparity through advocacy, education and training.
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