On behalf of the Gamaliel Network, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the families of the five Dallas police officers slain. Gang violence has been a problem in our urban centers for centuries. It has only mutated into different forms over that time. It began in the context of religion on the continents of Africa, Europe and in the Middle East. It then migrated to this country in the form of ethnic division within religion. This gang violence later mutated and formed around the sale and distribution of alcohol, one time considered illegal. Now in the present narrative this gang violence is centered on the sale and distribution of drugs. But there appears to be another gang flying under the radar that has license to shoot and even kill without fear of prosecution. This gang consists of members of law enforcement. In 2015 this gang killed 965 people, almost 10 percent of who were unarmed, over 50 percent armed. It is unclear how many of those who were armed presented any form of threat before being killed. According to the Washington Post the first half of 2016 is on pace to surpass the overall numbers of 2015.
In these past two days we saw two young African-American men, one armed with a license to carry and non-threatening, the other unarmed, added to this year’s statistics of those killed. They were killed by police officers. If the past patterns of prosecutorial discretion persist, the officers involved in these two incidents will be either indicted and exonerated, or not indicted at all. When citizens of this country, particularly people of color, have to live in fear of those who are called to protect and serve then we cease to be a democratic society and we become more and more despotic. When a citizenry loses hope in a Constitution designed to offer equal rights to all men and women, we become a nation no better than those we boldly criticize.
As people of faith we are called to recognize all forms of injustice regardless of who the perpetrators may be, and to demand that they too be held to the same standards and forms of adjudication all others are held to. The Gamaliel Network publicly denounces the shameful patterns of abusive police power that promote the killings of African-Americans as if it were sport, and the porous jurisprudence from biased jurists who turn a blind eye to civil rights. We do not condone violent public uprising and again we want to remember those five officers who lost their lives protecting peaceful protestors. But, we also promote the constitutional right to assemble and voice our concerns. When police officers are prosecuted for dereliction of duty and profound negligent, then trust between the community and law enforcement can begin to be reformed. When African-Americans and other people of color are no longer profiled through biased policing; marginalized by biased legislators, perhaps we truly can be the land of the free.
Rev. John C. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D.