TAMPA (FOX 13) - A diverse crowd packed into St. Paul Lutheran Church in Tampa Friday night with two goals: to decry police violence against black people, as well as violence against police in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement.
During the night the church was standing-room only as hundreds gathered to share feelings, poetry and prayers over the solemn week that included the deaths of two black men at the hands of police and the murder of five officers at a protest aimed at calling for justice over the police-inflicted violence.
"We are not anti-police, we have never been anti-police. We are anti-police brutality. My heart goes out to all those families in Dallas who are suffering right now because that's not what we intended," said organizer Doniesha Sullivan through tears.
The Bay Area's Black Lives Matter movement organized the meeting on Facebook, saying all were welcome. The meeting was also organized by Andrew and Deanna Joseph, of Riverview, who lost their son after he was hit and killed by a car following an ejection by Hillsborough County deputies at the state fair.
Black Lives Matter activists wanted attendees to recognize the growing problem of black people, especially men, ending up dead after police encounters. They also wanted the community to understand saying black lives matter does not mean no other lives matter.
"If you hear black lives matter and you hear well my life doesn't matter then you are missing the message," said Sullivan.
Some came to Friday's meeting to see how they could help the cause.
"I don't think it's the time to close your doors and lock them and make comments on Facebook. That's not what you do. You come out and thankfully people like this invited people to come and that's why we're here," said Stephanie Beddingfield, of Tampa.
Others expressed support for both black victims of police brutality and police themselves.
"You've had black men getting shot and you've had police getting shot and people believe it's one or the other, you have to support one or the other. Nobody deserves to be shot. Innocent people are being killed and that's the problem," said Trey Harris.
The group is planning other meetings and rallies in the future.
After a vague threat to the meeting on social media, Tampa police were present to monitor things and make sure people at the meeting were safe.