FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- City leaders, officers, pastors and people from every walk of life joined hands to pray together Sunday (July 10) to show love and solidarity for the city of Fort Smith.
"I think gatherings like this where both sides of the issue can hear each other and have open love in their heart, understand both side of the issue," Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck said. "We need prayer, we need wisdom, and this was a great opportunity to come together with the community and pray together."
The purpose of the prayer vigil was to unite the community despite a week of shootings involving police officers and black men.
"We want people to understand the police [are] not necessarily on the defense, sometimes they're on the offense trying to help us," Bobbie Woodward-Jones, who organized the vigil, said. "And also for the young children, we want the young children not to fear the police officers, but to understand that they're there to actually protect and serve."
At the vigil there were hugs, tears and celebration.
"This thing that happened to my fellow officers in Dallas, it broke my heart," Hollenbeck said. "Ever since that has happened, the amount of sympathy and support that has been show right here in Fort Smith, right here in Sebastian County proves that we are different."
Local leaders said they believe the change begins on a local level.
"We need to know who our officers are, our officers need to know who we are," City Director Andre Good said. "We're not just a group of people, and they're not just cops. We are not just African Americans or any other minority group. We are a community of people."