The police-involved shooting deaths of black men in the U.S. have not lacked for media attention this past week — but the children that those men left behind rarely get moments to publicly express their grief.
Cameron Sterling, 15, got that chance Wednesday during a press conference organized by his family's attorney. His father, Alton Sterling, was killed July 5 during a fatal encounter with police officers outside of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
No one would have begrudged the young Sterling were he to break down during the press conference, but he stood strong and expressed himself powerfully and effectively. He used his moment in the spotlight to convey his family's desire that protests around his father's death — which so far have resulted in dozens of arrests and at least one injured officer — continue in a peaceful and constructive manner.
His words give new weight to the biblical phrase "out of the mouths of babes":
I feel that everyone, yes, you can protest. But I want everyone to protest the right way. Protest in peace — not guns, not drugs, not alcohol, not violence. Everyone needs to protest the right way. With peace, no violence. None whatsoever.
The New York Times' Yamiche Alcindor explored the toll that these shootings have on children in a story published Saturday:
The list of young people burdened by these tumultuous times includes Tamir Rice's teenage sister, who lost 50 pounds after watching the police shoot him in 2014; the daughter of Oscar Grant III, killed by a transit officer while lying down on a California train platform in 2009, who as a 5-year-old would ask playmates to duck when she saw the police; and the 9-year-old nephew of Sandra Bland, who began sleeping in his mother's room after Ms. Bland's death last year in a jail cell.
Cameron Sterling first appeared before cameras, alongside other family members, the day after this father was shot multiple times. Then, Cameron openly wept.
But it was his display of strength Wednesday that caught the attention of people on Twitter as they followed developments in the case.