The test for religious leaders in this context has been nothing short of a demand for a prophetic voice which sees, names, and challenges the reality of a system that destroys the lives of some while parading as “law and order” for others. Faith leaders are finding themselves tangled in a quagmire of competing rhetoric about what makes for peace, walking the line of proclaiming prophetic vision amid a culture, a church, and a people tightly wrapped in the clutches of white supremacy.
"I’m sad, I’m hurt, I’m mad,” the Reverend Clinton Stancil of the Wayman AME Church in St. Louis said by telephone. “But this was expected. We haven’t made any progress since Ferguson, that’s clear. Cops can still kill us with impunity."
"I do know it's not healthy to jump to a conclusion that officers did something criminal just because their camera was off," Davis said, adding that he would wait until an internal investigation was complete before making a judgment.
What we’ve learned three years after Eric Garner’s death is that we can’t give up on God’s mandate for justice, incarnated in the gospel’s good news. If we trust and believe that selfish agendas of special interests will not prevail, we are compelled instead to believe that love will conquer hate.
The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
—U.S. Flag Code
IT SEEMS RATHER odd that a normal part of my catching-up-at-the-end-of-the-day conversation with my partner is discussing the whiplash of political events. Leaks are not conversations about the sink. Notes are not to be turned into the teacher. Tapes are not our latest vintage find. They are all political subjects and part of the ever-evolving new normal. And just as spring was forcing its way into bloom, it was announced that Officer Betty Shelby of the Tulsa (Okla.) Police Dept. was found not guilty of first- degree manslaughter in the shooting death of unarmed Terence Crutcher.
This year, America celebrates 241 years as a nation. And while racial and ethnic oppression has been a defining characteristic of the nation since the first colonists landed on the shores of this land, I hold out hope that because of her youth, America can change course.
In a nation founded on violence, how are we to respond when young indigenous people are beaten to death by police or young black men are shot in the front seat of their cars? What do we do when young Muslim women are assaulted on the way to say prayers with their community? In an attempt to protect ourselves from violence, we actually bring violence to our schools and neighborhoods, because we live a gospel of violence perpetuated over time by our attitudes of hate and racism toward one another.
After five days of deliberation, a jury has found the police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile not guilty on all charges.
The civil rights case of Slager's involvement in Scott's death was slated to go to trial later this month. Slager faces several charges in the death of Walter Scott, including lying to fellow law enforcement officers about details of the incident. Moments following Walter Scott’s death were captured on video, and in the video Slager places an object besides Scott’s body — suspected to be his Taser, which would go against Slager’s account that Scott took Slager’s Taser.
But more deeply than that, framing Terence’s last gasp of life in the texture of local challenges shows the frailty of black Tulsa’s dream of equal treatment. We need to ensure Terence does not become another note on a scale of the pain felt by countless black and brown lives. It’s only been seven months and the voices of those affected by this history have been diminished.
Black motorists in Florida are twice more likely to be shot by police after being pulled over for a traffic violation than white motorists in Florida, reports the Tampa Bay Times in an online interactive, “If You’re Black.”
This statistic is part of a new investigative study by the paper of every police shooting that occurred in Florida from 2009-2014. The newspaper gathered data from autopsies, news articles, police reports, and subsequent lawsuits.
Crying out “no justice, no peace,” crowds joined the Rev. Al Sharpton in a weekend march towards the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, vowing not to let President-elect Donald Trump turn back strides made by the civil rights leader.
The mostly African-American throng — smaller than the thousands expected, due to the steady rain — heard from civic and religious leaders about key areas of concern: health care, voting rights, economic equality, and police brutality and reform.
There were more than 400 force reports and over 170 officer related shootings in Chicago from January 2011 to April 2016 that. Not only did the department review, investigate and analyze these police documents, procedures, and trainings, they met with city leaders, community organizers, former police officer, rode along with current officers, and heard from over 1000 community members before making this judgement.
THIS TEXT SENT BY a relative at Standing Rock confirms the images we’ve been seeing from the Standing Rock demonstrations against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. On the evening of Nov. 20, local police with armored vehicles fired at water protectors and their allies with water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and percussion grenades; hundreds were injured and several taken to the hospital.
Once again we are at the crux of legitimate protests, private corporate interest, and the use of police and military force to address the situation. Fall 2011 saw law enforcement dismantling Occupy Wall Street encampments throughout the nation, while various Black Lives Matter demonstrations from Ferguson to Baltimore have faced similar confrontation by law enforcement. In all these cases, law enforcement prioritized protection of private property.
This fall, the Morton County sheriff’s department in North Dakota put its muscle behind the companies building the Dakota Access pipeline. The relationship between the use of force for the establishment of order and corporate interests being represented by the government is a tangled and messy system that has been vividly on display at Standing Rock.
The ongoing militarization of the government’s responses to protests over the past five years raises the question of whether there is a legitimate role for law enforcement, including the National Guard, that does not violate the just war criterion of excessive and disproportionate force.
A number of law enforcement programs and districts are having success through the establishment of de-escalation training and principles in their ranks. By putting in place strategies that de-escalate the need for force, either from the protesters or law enforcement, space is opened for negotiations and resolution.
Military force should in no way, shape, or form be used for the protection of corporate interests, particularly over the well-being of persons. The primary goal of law enforcement in these situations ought to be de-escalation as peacekeeping for the sake of avoiding excessive and disproportionate force and for the protection of the dignity and integrity of all involved.
The Injustice Boycott has selected three locations that it plans to affect: New York City, San Francisco, and Standing Rock. The initiative will give the government leaders of those locations until Jan. 17, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to answer to the demands of local activists and organizers, and if those demands aren’t answered by that day, the Injustice Boycott will launch several actions against the city. These actions will include a tourism boycott of those cities; pulling money out of banks, financial institutions, and large corporations that either support racial injustice and police brutality in those cities or have not come out against them; and protests in the city that will be designed to shut down the work of businesses and city government.
I was glad to see “Convicted of the Gospel” by Darlene Nicgorski included in the September/October issue. The “ministry of sanctuary” that she mentioned is an important and timely way to show the world we are Christians through our love. I have been lobbying my members of Congress and letting them know why my faith motivates my advocacy. The faith voice is crucial to immigration reform’s success and is necessary if we want any reforms to reflect our beliefs in human dignity, equality, and justice. I hope that the church around the country will join in the sanctuary movement, whether it is through advocacy, charity, or sheltering those who face the immediate threat of deportation.
You cannot reform the police state or our culture of incarceration (“Black and Blue,” by Ryan Hammill, September/October 2016) without a critique of our country’s values that proliferate fear and aggression. It’s how we were built and how we’ve sustained our way of life. Until then, taxpayers need to demand transparency from law enforcement, stop the flow of tax dollars to militarize them, and advocate for laws to protect citizens—especially citizens of color.
Prophets On the Loose
I read about the Tennessee weapons plant protest (“An 82-Year-Old Nun Did What?” by Rosalie Riegle, September/October 2016) in the news when it happened. I appreciate the update. I did not know that the “prophets of Oak Ridge” were released. Few realize the danger we all face; nuclear war cannot be allowed to happen. Pray for peace and the destruction of these weapons.
Terrence M. Cunningham, the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, apologized Oct. 17 on behalf of police in the U.S., “for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color,” reports the Washington Post.
I don’t need to remind you, but I will, that this is the mentality of slave owners — the muscle memory of oppression that beats in American hearts still, in quiet and loud ways, and leads the systems of this nation to marginalize those who look different than the most privileged.
Every black parent in America has to have “the talk” with his or her sons and daughters — about how to act and not act in the presence of white police officers with guns. It’s a painful family ritual that is slowly being discovered by America’s white parents as more and more police killings of young African Americans occur and are nationally discussed.
IN DECEMBER 2014, the white police chief of Richmond, Calif., showed up at a local protest against police brutality. The ethnically diverse city is infamous for its violent Iron Triangle neighborhood, but Chief Chris Magnus didn’t arrive at the protest to bust heads, or even to merely “keep an eye on” the assembly. Instead, he held a sign. It read, quite simply, “Black Lives Matter.”
The reaction was quick and intense—even the Richmond Police Officers Association issued a statement claiming Magnus had broken state law by “politicking” in uniform.
“I can understand how it is hard for a lot of police officers, especially given what has gone on in some of the protests,” Magnus said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Nevertheless, he doesn’t regret holding the sign. “I’d do it again,” he said. “[T]he idea that black lives matter is something that I would think that we should all be able to agree upon.”
Like Richmond’s police officers denouncing Magnus, negative national reactions to the Black Lives Matter movement have come quickly and decisively, replete with slogans such as “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter,” which refers to police officers.
Churches with “Black Lives Matter” signs have seen the word “black” defaced. Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, received hundreds of thousands of dollars from online donors, as did George Zimmerman, the neighborhood-watch vigilante who killed Trayvon Martin.
In May, Louisiana took “Blue Lives Matter” to the next level when Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the “Blue Lives Matter” bill that added public safety workers to protected-class status for hate crimes legislation, thereby joining ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. And in July, following the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the sniper killing of five Dallas police officers, protesters in Baton Rouge were met with armored tanks, percussion weapons, and the threat of being charged with the “hate crime” of obstructing police in response to their nonviolent actions.
This is the politics of polarization. Discussions on race in the United States too often behave according to Newton’s third law of motion: “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.” It’s true within the church as well: While 82 percent of black Protestants believe that police killings are part of a pattern, 73 percent of white mainline Protestants say the opposite—to them, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, and the hundreds of other unarmed black Americans killed by police are “isolated incidents.”