HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama city postponed its Christmas tree lighting Wednesday because of a police shooting of a black man inside a crowded shopping mall on Thanksgiving that has sparked protests.
Chanting demonstrators have marched several times since the death of Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr., and they planned to attend the holiday event, which was set for Thursday at City Hall in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover.
But a statement from the city said the tree lighting was being postponed out of respect for the loss of life. The city offered thoughts and prayers to Bradford’s family and hoped for healing.
“We want healing for the community, and we invite all persons of every faith to pray for the Bradford family and encourage all houses of worship to pray for God’s help in unifying our community,” the statement said.
No new date for the tree-lighting ceremony was given.
A funeral service for the 21-year-old Bradford is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the 5,000-seat Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham.
Police have said an officer killed Bradford after seeing him with a gun moments after a shooting on an upper concourse at the mall, which already was decorated for Christmas. Authorities initially identified Bradford as the shooter but later said they were wrong.
No one has been arrested in the gunfire, which injured a young girl and a man identified as a friend of Bradford.
Demonstrators have urged a boycott and vowed to “shut down” Hoover, a city of 85,000 people that is heavily dependent upon retail sales from the Riverchase Galleria mall where the shooting occurred. With more than 150 stores, the shopping center is the largest mall in Alabama.
Bradford’s death followed a string of highly publicized police shootings of black men, and his mother, April Pipkins, said she believes her son would still be alive had he been white.
“I think the whole scenario would have played out differently, I really do,” Pipkins told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday.
Speaking during a community event Tuesday night at Birmingham’s historic 16th Street Baptist Church, where a Ku Klux Klan bombing killed four black girls in 1963, the dead man’s father, Emantic Bradford Sr., cried as he described the loss of his son.
“I love my son, but I can’t hear him say ‘daddy,’ I can’t see him. And I want him to be there for me, and I don’t want to bury my boy like this. I hurt me bad,” Bradford said.
Pipkins said she was upset that police still haven’t talked to her about the shooting or released video of the confrontation. Pipkins said she had to call the coroner’s office on her own to get confirmation of Bradford’s death.
“You know, at this point it takes you this long to even think about contacting me about my child. I want to know how they would feel if that were their child laying there,” Pipkins said in the interview. “How would they feel from the beginning to the end?”