Pastor Claude King's Response to Police Killings

June 2020

To the Downers Grove First UMC Family,

I am deeply saddened and angered by the recent citizen killing of Ahmaud Arbery, and the police involved killings of Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, whose recent murder has sparked the weekend peaceful protests in approximately 100 cities across the country. These protests were also deeply marred by severe injuries and possible death of at least one police officer, the destruction of many small and large businesses, and widespread looting and rioting in many of those same cities.

We have witnessed an ever-growing number of incidences that used deadly force and violent actions recently in many of our nation’s police departments, against people of color, specifically Black African American people. The unnecessary confrontation and shooting of Ahmaud Arbery (age 25) while jogging in Georgia; and the police squad shooting of Breonna Taylor (age 26) in her home at night in Kentucky; and the choking death of George Floyd (age 46) in Minnesota are just a few of the mounting number of Black people who died unjustly at the hands of actual police officers or a former police falsely acting in that capacity.

An article from the Associated Press by Amy Forliti and Steve Karnowski on June 1, has discovered that George Floyd died of strangulation. “An autopsy commissioned for George Floyd’s family found that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression when a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck until he stopped breathing, ignoring his cries of distress, the family’s attorneys said Monday…The family’s autopsy was conducted by Michael Baden and Allecia Wilson. Baden is the former chief medical examiner of New York City.” The strangulation of George Floyd by the police officer who compressed George’s neck with his knee, even though he was fully restrained by two other police officers holding down his torso and legs, was wrong.

Those police officers should not have treated George Floyd in such a harsh manner. Nor should the police squad have, without cause, burst into the home of Breonna Taylor unannounced at night and shot her to death. Their actions caused her to suffer an agonizing death just as George Floyd suffered, calling for his mother, as if they were citizens living in a military occupation zone. But, it so often seems like black men and women, as well as other people of color are, in fact, treated this way by a growing number of insensitive and quick triggered police officers across this nation. It is as if they were acting in a combat military response.

Those particular uncaring police officers and others like them, do not represent the greater majority of police officers across the nation, who are sensitive and respectful of the people they have taken an oath to serve and protect. I am deeply grateful for the hundreds of police officers, and other law enforcement agents employed in this country, who never would have treated Breonna Taylor or George Floyd in the insensitive and uncaring manner that resulted in their deaths.

I am deeply and equally saddened and angered over the injured police officers and destruction of businesses, the loss of income and jobs that resulted because of those harsh actions from planned attacks by subversive groups and by hostile actions from opportunistic looters over this past weekend against the owners who did not cause the suffering that Ahmaud, Breonna, and George endured until their death.

Those store owners and other businesses should not have been targeted, looted, and/or destroyed. Those police officers should not have been treated like they were targets and attacked. There are so many law abiding and caring police officers doing their job across this nation every day. People who have been victimized by police oppression or those who support the victims of police oppression, should not group together all police officers as being insensitive and quick triggered just as black people and people of color do not want to be profiled or grouped together as suspects of crimes wherever they are encountered by police on a daily basis. We are all living in the same country and should be given the same equal respect. Too often it does not feel like people of color and, specifically, black people have experienced that equality in this country.

There has been much anger that has been boiling up over the years in our communities where people of color reside because it does not seem like people of color are being treated equally to their fellow white residents when so many police officers disproportionately take the lives of black men and women who are detained or pulled over as suspects of minor or serious violations. And conversely, so many civilian people wrongly believe it is their right to inflict their anger on all police officers who are protecting the people they are sworn to serve, because they are angry at the injustices they have suffered due to some officers who were insensitive, uncaring, violent, and quick triggered. Neither injustice is right, so why is it still happening in 2020?

This kind of injustice and violence looks a lot like the many years of battles between long-term enemies in history books where violence begets more violence. This has been going on for too many years and it now must come to an end. However, we cannot end this type of injustice if we do not speak out against it in unison. Staying quiet while people are being killed unjustly by police cannot continue.

In the light of these devastating events, I believe that as a congregation we should come together and join with the Downers Grove Police Department and our community leaders to talk over how we can better prevent this type of injustice.

Our response as a local church to the racism that prevails in our country is being discussed in our clergy team. We will also have a conversation with our church leadership. Then, our broader membership will be part of that conversation for raising awareness and understanding our part in allowing racism to continue, as well as how we can stop the practices that foster a climate of racism locally. We plan:

1.) For DGFUMC to commit to speak out, and positively act against the racial profiling, unjust treatment, and unnecessary use of deadly force on people of color and specifically black people, to our family, friends, coworkers, and community residents with our voices, words, and actions using all the various mediums and ways that are available to us.
2.) To pray earnestly for all the people in our community to work together to finally put an end the unnecessary use of deadly force by police against people of color and an end to racism in all its forms.
3.) To join together with the wider religious community and with local law enforcement departments to communicate effectively through discussing and listening intently to each other, so we can see each other as equals and form a closer connection between those who serve and protect and the people who they are serving and protecting under God’s love, compassion, and guidance.

 

Claude R. King, Sr., Senior Pastor

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