Religious Leaders Urge Peaceful Protests, Not Violence

Cities erupted in violence this weekend over the death of George Floyd on May 25, an unarmed black man who died in police custody.

May 26 protest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where George Floyd died in police custody the day before. (Image by Fibonacci Blue)
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Footage of the arrest from the security camera of a convenience store across the street and the phones of onlookers show how officer Derek Chauvin, who has since been removed from the police force and charged with manslaughter and third-degree murder, pinned Floyd to the street, ignoring his pleas that he couldn’t breathe.

Clergy and congregations in Minnesota’s Twin Cities and across the country voiced outrage. Presiding Episcopalian Bishop Michael Curry, one of the faith leaders who earlier called for a June 1 National Day of Mourning and Lament to Honor Coronavirus Victims, spoke of Floyd’s death and the deaths of others before him, at a time when the country is also dealing with more than 100,000 deaths from the pandemic.

“This crisis reflects deep sores and deep wounds that have been here all along,” Curry, the first African-American minister to head the Episcopalian Church in the United States, said in response to the unrest. “In the midst of COVID-19 and the pressure cooker of a society in turmoil, a man was brutally killed. The basic human right to life was taken away. His basic human dignity was stripped by someone charged to protect our common humanity. And perhaps the deeper pain of this is the fact that it’s not an isolated incident. The pain of this is that it’s a deep part of our life. It’s not just our history. It is American society today. We are not, however, slaves to our fate, unless we choose to do nothing.”

Terrence Floyd, George Floyd’s younger brother, criticized violent protesters for the weekend of violence.

“It’s OK to be angry,” he said, “but channel your anger to do something positive or make a change another way, because we’ve been down this road already.” He said that his brother would want us to seek justice “but channel it another way. The anger, damaging your hometown, is not the way he’d want.”

Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., addressed the civil unrest and violence in a TV appearance.

King echoed her uncle’s belief that rioting is the “voice of the unheard,” but called on the people of America to “come together in unity and faith and love and communicate, solve the problem; violence will not do that.”

She recalled how her father, Rev. A.D. King, reacted in the 1960s when the family’s home was bombed.

“I remember my father standing on a car, we got out of the house safely…and he said to the people: ‘Please, go home. Don’t be violent, go home. If you have to hit somebody, hit me, but I’d rather you go home. I’m safe, my family is safe, go home.’”

She expressed her belief that if her father or uncle were here today, they would tell people, “go home and pray.”


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