Moving toward unity: Memorials and vigils honor the fallen with messages of peace

Fallen officers honored during vigils across Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge runners gather at the State Capitol (Source: WAFB)
Baton Rouge runners gather at the State Capitol (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The metro area was overwhelmed with grieving and tributes for the three men who made the ultimate sacrifice for the city they served.

Yet, in that grief, so many have found comfort by coming together to share in their mourning and remember Officer Matthew Gerald, Officer Montrell Jackson, and Deputy Brad Garafola.

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Outside Istrouma High School Tuesday evening, the class of 2001 organized a candlelight vigil for their fallen alum, Jackson. 

Every memory shared painted a picture of a caring, kind, and devoted man. 

"I had the pleasure of knowing his heart. When I tell y'all that he wasn't just the type of person that just showed this on the street, this was how he was inside and out," said Jackson's sister, Jessica Milligan Robinson.

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The vigil was organized by four of Jackson's classmates; women who said the news of his death devastated them.

But their devastation turned to amazement as more and more people continued to fill the front courtyard of the high school to honor his memory.

"His last post that he said, 'I so love my city and I wonder if my city loves me.' Tonight, we showed that his city, his school, his community loved him," said organizer Kanesha Kelly.

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At the same time, a very different tribute was unfolding on Airline Highway near where the officers gave their lives.

Hundreds of motorcyclists gathered for a memorial ride, down the highway and towards Baton Rouge Police headquarters filling the air with the rumble of motors.

"I got great respect to anybody who served in the military and the police department. They fight for us every day. They put their lives on the line every day for us," said a biker from Livingston Parish Darrell Martin.

One rider pointed out, that if all the different biking clubs could unite, then anyone could. 

"If we can come together, ride together, we can all come together," said biker Courtney Walker.

And at the State Capitol, runners marched one step at a time to the common goal of peace and unity.

"We're one family. We're one community," said Reverends Albert White, "and we are going to continue to work together for one common purpose and one common cause, to see to it that we allow each and every one of us that is on this earth, to continue to run the race that has been given to them and decided for them by God and not by either one of us."

Hundreds gathered on the steps of the State Capitol Tuesday night. They all participate in various running groups throughout Baton Rouge. They braved the sweltering sun and pushed through the heat to let people see that they want to show the world a different image than the one that's played out of the last two weeks.

"The Baton Rouge that people around the world have seen on TV does not represent us, at all, in any means," said Jenni Peters, owner of Varsity Sports and one of the main organizers for the event. "This is what we do, we come together as a fitness group. We've always been supportive of each other's efforts."

The message of unity is one that's been echoed for weeks. In fact, a rally with a similar message was held in the very same spot on Saturday, July 9.

"It's really time we stop and really get to know each other," said Rev. White. "Because we are our brothers' keeper."

After a prayer, the group completed a 3.1 mile run through the streets of downtown.

More vigils are planned throughout the week. Click here to view those events, or send us information about your event to

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