Last weekend, demonstrations against police brutality, especially toward people of color, took place all over the United States, including Indiana. The protests follow the killing of 59 year-old George Floyd, an unarmed black American man, at the hands of Minnesota law enforcement on May 25. Some United Methodist pastors took part in the racial protests across Indiana.
Rev. Annettra Jones, Associate Pastor at St. Andrew UMC, joined with protesters in downtown Lafayette on Sunday to protest. “We should not be here in the middle of a pandemic because George Floyd should still be alive,” said Jones.
While many are protesting on the behalf of the voiceless, these demonstrations are about far more than Floyd’s death. They reflect the outrage by communities that have witnessed the consistent pattern of police brutality and the excessive force used by police especially when confronting young black men and women around the country. Floyd’s death follows many other high-profile killings in recent years that have sent shockwaves throughout black and low-income communities. Now, community leaders, activists, and church leaders are lending their voices to this cause and demanding reform, asking that all officers be held accountable for their actions.
“While I am a pastor, I am not here to offer cheap grace,” shouted Jones from a megaphone.
She explained, “Cheap grace is when we want to sing ‘Kumbaya’ without any change, without any repentance, and without obliterating racism from the land.”
The Rev. Dr. Aleze Fulbright, Conference Superintendent serving in the Central District, spoke in a similar fashion this past Sunday, during a rally that gathered in front of the Indiana Statehouse in downtown Indianapolis. The event – “Processional for Racial Justice” invited faith leaders and people of all faiths calling for justice. Fulbright shared photos and an excerpt on Facebook following the event.
The gathering was organized by Faith in Indiana, an ecumenical organization committed to supporting faith communities and people working for racial and economic equity. Guests were mandated to wear face masks and practice social distancing.
Fulbright shared, “While these pictures do not represent the fullness of the moment, especially the 8 minutes and 46 seconds where those gathered [from different faith traditions, ethnicities, backgrounds, and communities] laid down their lives in remembrance of the life that was taken.”
It was reported that Derek Chauvin, the arresting officer who detained Floyd, kneeled down on Floyd’s neck for a total of 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
Like Jones, Fulbright’s message was about action.
“Yes, we have offered our thoughts and prayers. Yes, we have posted, blogged, sent newsletters; however, this time must be different.”
She continued, “Our faith, individually and collectively, is calling us outside the walls of our comforts, into the deeps of overcoming our personal bias, and moving toward the Shalom for all to experience.”
The Rev. Mary Van Wijk, Senior Pastor at Hammond First UMC, took part in a peaceful protest last Sunday morning that rallied in front of the Hammond Police Station. Wijk’s invocation during the gathering spoke on the act of breathing. It’s been reported that George Floyd said, “I can’t breathe” during his arrest, moments before his death. He echoed Eric Garner, another unarmed black who said those same words preceding his death at the hands of law enforcement in 2014.
“When there’s no justice for everybody, there’s no justice for anybody,” said Wijk.
Wijk called on law enforcement to act with conscience and to join with protesters in this fight for racial justice. “We stand in unity with those police departments that want justice, and we stand against those who bring brutality.”
The protest preceded an additional peaceful gathering in the afternoon that quickly turned violent. Lake County Sheriff Martinez said that police intervened the protest by blocking the intersection of 171st street and Calumet Ave. to keep protesters from crossing onto the highway. He also shared that rocks were thrown by the protesters. Tear gas ensued on the crowd of nearly 300 people, including a 12-year-old girl. No arrests were made.