Kevin Michael Bautista was part of a peaceful protest in Dallas on July 7. When bullets started to fly, he took out his phone and began recording video. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

He wasn’t even sure he wanted to go to the protest in downtown Dallas on Thursday. But after thinking about the latest police shootings across the country, Michael Kevin Bautista decided he didn’t want to stay home.

He’d take photos and spread the word. There were important conversations to be had.

“Everybody seemed happy,” he said. “Then all of a sudden the shots rang out. Five or six shots: Pow, pow, pow, pow, pow!”

The event began as a peaceful protest.

“They didn’t even have a megaphone out there,” Bautista said. “Just a couple of pastors up there preaching.”

As protesters marched from Commerce Street to Main Street, Bautista ran out ahead of the crowd, hoping to take photos of those participating in the rally as they walked toward him.

“I hadn’t been too into anything political,” he said. “Probably within the past year I started really realizing, you know, there’s something not quite right in the world. The only way to get really heard is photography, videography.”

When Bautista got to the corner of Lamar Street, the protest was still catching up to him. He estimates 30 to 40 people were spread out on the street corner. The mood was upbeat. Then the shots came.

“It was a very short, quick moment of panic, because I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from,” he remembered. “And then I told myself to get it together and go out there and document.”

Bautista ran across the street and took cover behind a small tree. That’s when he started filming, and that’s when he saw a police officer had been shot.

“I just ran across that same street and was literally brushing shoulders with police officers,” he said. “This cop was continuously telling me to get down, but I just kind of thought it was my duty to be there.”

The video, which Bautista streamed live to Facebook, now has more than 5 million views.

The shooting ended up killing five police officers.

Bautista said he felt a responsibility to show the world what was happening.

People need to “know why things are going to be the way that they are going to be, now that this has happened,” he said. “Hey, you have a responsibility in yourself to get together with your family members, tell them what is the right thing to do … spread love. That’s the main thing. Hate is never going to wash away hate, we all know the quote.”

Bautista says the Black Lives Matter movement, and other protesters, face a tough question — one that civil rights activists in the 1960s also faced. And it’s a question that could frame the entire discussion about the role of police in American society.

“Just as in the 1960s, when lawmakers had to choose between Martin Luther King’s call for nonviolent resistance and Malcolm X’s theory of ‘by any means necessary,'” he said, “what happened yesterday was a direct reflection of that same choice. So either lawmakers will change something, or we will continue to see citizens and officers show hate towards one another.”

“If you don’t like the police, become a police officer. If you don’t like the governor, become the governor. Think about what it is you can do to actually change the circumstances.”

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