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DALLAS -- They stood on the Continental Avenue Bridge, overlooking downtown Dallas.

They held signs, had a moment of silence, and then started talking.

'Look around -- this is bigger than a race war,' one man said.

After listening to a few liberal viewpoints, one woman said, 'I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum politically... But if we can stand together for this, they can't push us back.'

They don't know Mike Brown. They don't even know each other.

But they know what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, isn't just a Ferguson problem. It's an American problem.

'It's not a black thing, it's not a white thing,' said 25-year-old Ebony Isaac, who organized the event. 'Everybody's here. We all want it to end.'

Nick Summerlin came, holding a sign that read 'I am Mike Brown.'

'I basically came because of what I had to be told as I grew up as a young black man in Dallas,' he said. 'I have nephews, other kids I have influence over. When I think about it, this could've been them. When I was 18 - as Mike Brown was - this could've been me.'

In 2012, it could've been Dallas.

Police shot and killed an unarmed man in the Dixon Circle neighborhood who was allegedly fighting with an officer. But officers and community leaders kept rage from turning into a riot, in large part because of a program called 'community policing.'

Dallas Police Deputy Chief Jesse Reyes said the department puts a heavy emphasis on it, because they believe it works.

'We encourage [officers] to get out of cars, meet people, talk about every-day issues,' he said. 'What's important is the communication.'

Neighborhood beat officers form relationships and work to gain trust, so when tempers erupt, violence doesn't.

'It pays dividends in the sense that, when there is a critical situation going on, they're familiar with you and you're familiar with them,' Reyes said. 'It helps policing that much more.

'Without trust, you're not going to be able to effectively police that community,' he continued.

Trust is needed for and from both sides -- the police and the public.

Ebony Isaac said we're not there yet.

'We shouldn't riot, we shouldn't loot, we shouldn't go out and start attacking police officers,' she said. 'But we should let them know we hold them to a higher standard of behavior.'

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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