As tensions and unrest continued Tuesday in Baltimore over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, religious leaders took to the pews and the streets to call for peace.
Several churches opened their doors to offer safe haven to local residents, especially students after Baltimore City Public Schools were closed Tuesday.
“You have all these kids with nowhere to go. The community has to step up and feed our children, provide youth activities and be there for people going through an understandably traumatic experience,” said the Rev. Heber Brown, pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, one of those offering refuge.
“Our role is to be a moral voice at this time,” said Brown, who on Monday evening joined with other clergy to form a wall of protection during protests at the corner of West North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue. That intersection is just blocks away from where police chased Gray before his April 12 arrest, and next to a CVS store that was looted and lit on fire and an Ace Cash Express that was broken into on Monday, according to a Washington Post map.
“I was standing with my Muslim brother from [Nation of Islam] Muhammad Mosque No. 6 and Christian pastors. We were there to protect the protesters from police and the business and houses,” said Brown, who noted that police pepper-sprayed him. “Our best sermon right now is not anything we say but what we do.”
Doors were also opened at Metropolitan United Methodist Church near downtown Baltimore, Northside Baptist Church, Waverly United Methodist Church, John Wesley United Methodist Church and Empowerment Temple Family Life Center.
The Rev. Jamal Bryant, who gave an impassioned eulogy Monday at Gray’s funeral that called on mourners to “get your black self up and change this city,” welcomed dozens at Empowerment Temple.
“We opened our doors for nonviolent students and teens to have a place not just to relax, but Empowerment has also invited therapists to give them counseling,” said the Rev. DeVante Mills, who is not a minister there but recently started attending the church after moving to Baltimore from Memphis, Tennessee.
On Tuesday morning, Mills, 22, showed up at the building with a car full of donations: 75 McMuffins, hash browns and cases of Dasani water bottles. Later, he said he planned to buy DVDs, like Denzel Washington’s "The Great Debaters," to entertain the kids.
“The body of Christ said stand bold in situations like this. I think the pivotal role we have is keeping peace,” said Mills, who added that he had joined other clergy in peaceful marches on Monday.
Faith leaders had planned a prayer rally Tuesday afternoon at Security Square Mall in west Baltimore County. The mall is closed because of rumors that violent protests might spread there, according to the Baltimore Sun, and a flyer circulating on social media said clergy were “calling all pastors, believers and people who care” to go to the shopping center to “pray for our city, county and state.” But early Tuesday afternoon, Apostle Karen Bethea, one of the prayer organizers and a co-founder of Set the Captives Free Outreach Center in Baltimore, posted on Facebook that they would instead pray via conference call.
Bethea also announced a clergy meeting for the early afternoon at New Psalmist Baptist Church. Empowerment Temple is scheduled to host a nonviolent civil disobedience training at 5 p.m.
A group of Baltimore-area Seventh-day Adventist churches, whose clergy had marched on Monday evening, cancelled a Tuesday afternoon street cleanup because of safety concerns.
Joshua McLean, a 20-year-old seminarian at Family Bible Ministries in southwestern Baltimore who had planned to attend the cancelled Security Square Mall prayer gathering, said that he was grateful for the religious response.
“I have mixed feelings about these protests and violence. Yes, people want us to be peaceful, but at the same time people won’t stop killing us,” said McLean, who is black. “Right now, we just need to keep peace and calm. We need to rebuild our communities and our youth for a better future.”
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A group of criminals have just started a fire outside the library located at Pennsylvania Ave and North Ave.— Baltimore Police (@BaltimorePolice) April 29, 2015
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04/28/2015 11:41 PM EDT
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04/28/2015 11:29 PM EDT
Baltimore City Councilman: 'Just Call Them Niggas'
Is it accurate to call the Baltimore protesters thugs?
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Watch the video from CNN below:
04/28/2015 11:14 PM EDT
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[H/T Washington Post]
04/28/2015 11:05 PM EDT
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04/28/2015 10:58 PM EDT
Attorney General Loretta Lynch Reiterates Ongoing Probe Of Baltimore
From the White House:
Earlier today, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett hosted a conference call with over 50 local leaders from across the country including Mayors Michael Nutter (Philadelphia, PA), Tom Barrett (Milwaukee, WI), Karen Freeman-Wilson (Gary, IN), and Chairman John Eaves (Fulton County, GA).
During the call, Jarrett noted that her thoughts were with the family of Freddie Gray and expressed appreciation for the heroic efforts of police officers, fire fighters and community leaders joining their fellow Baltimore residents who are helping to clean up the debris and property destruction. She also highlighted the 21st Century Policing Task Force’s constructive recommendations that, if adopted by local law enforcement agencies across the country, would enhance community trust – including recommendations for providing training on bias, properly implementing body-worn camera programs, conducting independent investigations of fatalities, and promoting officer safety and wellness. The Attorney General spoke about DOJ efforts to award grants to local police departments in ways that encourage adoption of the Task Force recommendations. The Attorney General also noted that the Department of Justice has opened an investigation in Baltimore and is working with local enforcement, and emphasized that she looks forward to strengthening the partnership that local officials have with the Department of Justice. The two pledged to stay in touch and keep them updated on the ongoing situation in Baltimore.
Jarrett also remained in regular contact with Mayor Rawlings Blake (Baltimore, MD) and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.
-- Jennifer Bendery
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