|Pastors Karen Anderson, Heather Arcovitch and Starsky Wilson|
read the letter to the Hon. Richard Callahan from a scroll
in front of the Thomas Eagleton Courthouse on Monday
We were met with barricades and US Marshals. Because it is a public space and we posed no threat and there was no legitimate reason to keep us out of that space, more than 50 people (I was not one of them) chose to ignore the barricades and, eventually, try to enter the building. They were arrested and charged with obstruction.
This makes me profoundly sad. How differently today could have turned out if Mr. Callahan had just come down to listen to our demands and commit to take them to Washington? How differently today could have turned out if those in authority had chosen to recognize that the people before them were -- as we have been for the past 365 days - coming in love ... militant love, passionate love ... but love all the same.
We must do better.
For me, the point of this action was always to deliver a letter and to have our voice be heard. I am proud to have been part of the interfaith team that designed both the action and the letter (which was read from a large scroll signed by all of us). And I want to share it with you here. The demands are taken straight from the Ferguson Action Network ... and so they represent the hearts and minds of a broad spectrum of God's children.
Here is the letter we tried to deliver:
To the Hon. Richard Callahan, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri
Dear Mr. Callahan,
We are all created in G-d’s image (Genesis 1:27), all equally loved, all equally sacred. This belief has been long-betrayed in this nation. Beginning with the stealing of Black persons into lives of torture and forced labor to build this nation’s economy and enduring today in systems that continue to use Black bodies for economic gain in ways that place them at far greater risk of imprisonment, injury, poverty, and death.
G-d’s people are crying out on account of their taskmasters. The taskmasters are all who benefit from American economic and political systems built on white supremacy. The taskmasters are all who support laws that criminalize and villainize Black children of G-d for trying to thrive or even survive in these oppressive systems. The taskmasters are all who support and even demand that those in law enforcement, sworn to serve and protect the people, instead serve to protect these systems, even using the fear of Black people to validate their practices.
G-d’s people are crying out on account of their taskmasters. G-d’s people have been crying out for centuries. We believe G-d hears these cries.
As people of faith, we believe G-d’s attitude toward the cries of the people is not to preserve privilege and stay silent but to “observe the misery of my people…hear their cry on account of their taskmasters…know their sufferings…come down to deliver them.” (Exodus 3:7-8)
It is not G-d who has failed to hear these cries, to know these sufferings, to come down and deliver these American people. As a nation, we have. We have failed to hear, know and deliver those who are in constant danger because Black bodies continue to be seen both as threat and economic asset.
We recognize this one-year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown at the hands of the state and of the ensuing and enduring Ferguson Uprising, to lift up one key element of this oppression – the continuing racial bias in policing across this nation -- and proclaim that NOW IS THE TIME for change.
We demand an end to racially-biased policing in our nation because it is a practice that denies the humanity of all as created sacred in G-d’s image. NOW IS THE TIME.
We demand an end to racially-biased policing in our nation because it upholds and intensifies the chasms of race, class, power and privilege that divide us and condemn us to fall short of G-d’s dreams for us. NOW IS THE TIME.
We demand an end to racially-based policing in our nation as a first step in dismantling the systems of white supremacy that are not worthy of any of G-d’s children and that have caused those among use who are Black to cry out for far too long. NOW IS THE TIME.
To this end, specifically, we demand a comprehensive review by the Department of Justice of systemic abuses by local police departments, including the publication of data relating to racially biased policing, and the development of best practices.
In addition, we demand a repurposing of law enforcement funds to support community-based alternatives to incarceration and the conditioning of DOJ funding on the ending of discriminatory policing and the adoption of DOJ best practices.
As faith leaders, we come together today to deliver these demands to the home of those who have been entrusted with the mantle of justice for this nation.
Mr. Callahan, your choice is a simple one. Will you hear the cries of the people on account of their taskmasters, will you know their sufferings, will you take it upon yourself to use the power and privilege entrusted to you to deliver them? Or will you use your power and privilege like Pharaoh did, closing his ears and hardening his heart?
As faith leaders, we come together today to amplify these cries and bear these demands as an act of prayer. We stand on the shoulders of leaders like Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who when he returned from marching in Selma was asked by someone if he found much time to pray there and responded: “I prayed with my feet.”
We are praying with our feet. And we will not stop until every ear is opened and heart is softened. We will not stop until Black lives truly do matter in this nation. We will not stop until the sun-kissed children of G-d are delivered from oppression and all share the good and broad land together. NOW IS THE TIME!
signed by nearly 200 faith leaders and people of faith