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The Latest On Baton Rouge: A City In Healing


The city of Baton Rouge is mourning its fallen officers and trying to find a path forward after weeks of violence and protests. Sheriff deputies - Sheriff's Deputy Brett Garafola will be remembered at a funeral today. He's one of three law enforcement officers who were killed last Sunday by a gunman authorities say targeted police. NPR's Debbie Elliott has more.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Emotions are still raw as Baton Rouge buries the slain officers and continues to grapple with the July 5 police killing of a black man. At the funeral yesterday for rookie policeman Matthew Gerald, Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden acknowledged the simmering racial tension in the city.


KIP HOLDEN: We have to set aside differences and join together and understand the meaning of the word respect.

ELLIOTT: Holden is black and has come under fire for his slow response when video showed a white officer shooting Alton Sterling while he was pinned to the ground. Now Holden is publicly calling for unity.

HOLDEN: A community in mourning should evaluate itself and say, what else can I do to make my community better? Why is it that I have to have the frame of mind us versus them when the men and women who donned their uniform are here for all of us?

ELLIOTT: Last night, a diverse group of faith leaders came together to start that work at a service of reconciliation at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Pray - I'm going to keep on praying.

ELLIOTT: Clergy offered prayers, including one of protection for police officers. Bethel AME pastor Herman Kelly.

HERMAN KELLY: We are a community, and we're going to have to live with each other.

ELLIOTT: Kelly says rebuilding trust is going to take some work.

KELLY: In our community - in the African-American community - a lot of young black men - when they see the uniform, all of a sudden, they begin to think confrontation. So we have to begin to show them another side.

ELLIOTT: Finding the space to open a fresh dialogue will be difficult, given the climate in the country. Father Dan Krutz, director of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference, says the crisis in Baton Rouge is a symptom of the nation's struggle.

DAN KRUTZ: This is a very unsettling summer. I'm thinking that it's something like what I remember back - I think it was in 1968 - where there were some assassinations and burnings around the country in major cities. The anger just spilled over into the streets.

ELLIOTT: Healing in unity can come, he says, but it will take time. Sitting in the front pew at the Bethel AME service, 77-year-old Hassan Abdullah sees what's happening in Baton Rouge as part of a larger reckoning.

HASSAN ABDULLAH: The human soul is crying out for freedom.

ELLIOTT: As the conversation about healing begins, the mourning continues. Deputy Brad Garafola's funeral is this afternoon. The 45-year-old father of four was working a security detail at the convenience store where the gunman attacked. On Monday, the city will remember 32-year-old police officer Montrell Jackson. Just days before the killings, he had posted a Facebook message about how difficult it was to be both a police officer and a black man. Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Baton Rouge. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.