FaithHamil R. HarrisReligion

Pastors Pray for Justice, Press AG on Police Conduct

Just as Martin Luther King Jr. and others prayed for change and social justice decades ago, a new coalition of pastors called on a higher power outside the Justice Department headquarters Sunday amid nationwide unrest following the police-related death of a Black man in Minneapolis.

The ministers urged Attorney General William Barr to be more aggressive in investigating incidents within police departments across the country in which many have been targeted because of the color of their skin.

“We want to hold the police departments accountable for the conduct displayed in police departments across the country,” said Rev. L.K. Floyd, pastor of the Heart Changers Baptist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. “This should be called the Department of Injustice because, [as] Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to just everywhere.'”

The group of pastors demonstrated outside the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building in D.C. — somewhat fitting because Kennedy, who was President Johnson’s attorney general, filed suit in September 1964 against officials in Selma, Ala., for violating the Civil Rights Act.

Kennedy asked a special three‐judge federal panel to prevent the police from unjustly “arresting, jailing, punishing or threatening” anyone attempting to exercise their civil rights.

In contrast, President Trump in 2016 selected former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general, and Sessions wasted little time in gutting long-standing provisions of the Voting Rights Act before he was replaced by Barr for recusing himself from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Last week, Black Lives Matter and several other civil rights groups filed suit against Trump and Barr for attacking protesters assembled in D.C.’s Lafayette Square moments before the president walked to nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church for a much-maligned photo-op.

At Lafayette Square, located near the White House and long a popular spot for protests, Barr ordered federal agents to disperse a crowd of peaceful demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died last month while in police custody in Minneapolis.

The agents, carrying riot shields and wearing riot gear, pushed and fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the protesters shortly before Trump came to the church with Bible in hand.

While former Secretary of State Colin Powell criticized the move by the Trump White House, Barr said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that his actions were justified.

“They were not peaceful protesters,” Barr said. “And that’s one of the big lies that the media seems to be perpetrating at this point.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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