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Responses to the Killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile


July 13, 2016

Responses to the Killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

For more responses, see our main Black Lives Matter page.

The Problem We All Live With: Bearing Witness, but Never Finding Justice

from Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes

We do not love ourselves. We have become cavalier with each other’s lives and we, as a nation, have not yet decided that we have reached the point where we will now practice willful and strategic eradication of the complex character that makes us an unloving society.

Let me be clear, the kind of love I am talking about is not romantic. It is a love forged out of the gospel call to dig deep into our innards and find the spaces of compassion sequestered there, to pull them out into our social and political lives to create a society that values the great diversity of folks that shape us into a nation. The kind of love we tend to practice is not this kind of love—it is hoarding. It is protecting what we have, protecting who we are, circling the wagons around our ideas and beliefs, failing to look up and out into the faces of the many-ness of this country.

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Some Lives Matter More

From Rev. Kent Harrop (Click here to read more of Kent's blog)

Some lives matter more. So it would seem.

This past week two black men, in Louisiana and in Minnesota were killed by white police officers in images gone viral. In reaction five police officers in Dallas who were simply doing their job were killed by a black sniper. These and other high-profile race related killings and riots across the nation has stripped white folk like me of the illusion that we live in a color blind society.

We are beginning to understand what our black and brown sisters and brothers have always known. America is a fragmented society that allows for the subjugation of people of color. In the era of a black President how can this be?

Look no further than the prison industrial complex. The prison system is lucrative. Both private and public entities run our jails and prisons. Tens of thousands are employed to control the population, contractors are hired to build and maintain these facilities, vendors sell millions of dollars of products.

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Liturgical Resources in the Wake of Violence

from the Alliance of Baptists

Alliance friends and colleagues have spoken out in prayers, sermons, calls to worship and other ways in the wake of the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the police officers in Dallas, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa. We have compiled some of those here as resources to be shared. 

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Weeping as Jesus Wept

from Believe Out Loud

This week we stepped into a period of mourning, overwhelmed by a string of deaths that remind us again that we live in a world of injustice and sorrow.

As we worked to grieve the unjust killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of the police, we awoke this morning to the news that five police officers were killed in Dallas, Texas, with seven more wounded.

By dawn, our media had already shaped the narrative; fearsome and racially-charged commentary began to tear apart our national dialogue on racial justice, violence, and police accountability.

Racial violence is deeply rooted in the history of the United States.

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Justice is a Verb!

Blog posts from Hon. Wendell Griffen

The Truth We Dare Not Ignore

Eric Matthew Frein murdered one Pennsylvania state trooper and severely injured a second in September 2014. He was the subject of a massive manhunt and was placed on the FBI 10 Most Wanted List. He was apprehended, captured alive, and is now awaiting trial. Eric Matthew Frein is white.

James Holmes killed 12 people in his murderous shooting attack at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. He was apprehended, captured alive, tried, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. James Holmes is white.

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Lessons to the United States from a Plumb Line

Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and Delrawn Small were killed by police officers. They were killed publicly. They were killed while being where they had the right to be and doing what they had the right to do. Their deaths occurred the week of the U.S. Independence Day holiday, the “Fourth of July.”

The public outcry about their deaths was quick and wide spread. Protest marches and demonstrations occurred.  Politicians, police agency leaders, and social justice advocates issued statements calling on people to be calm and peacefully await the outcome of official investigations surrounding these latest deaths of black people at the hands of police.

Then on the night of July 8, a black gunman targeted police officers during a peaceful protest march about police violence against black people in Dallas, Texas. The gunman, Micah Xavier Johnson, used a semi-automatic rifle to kill five white officers and wound several others before he was killed by police. 

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The Wars Have Come to US Soil

A blog post from Patrick Hiller on

The war that has come home is that of unchallenged U.S. militarism. While easily identifiable in wars abroad, the sometimes subtler forms of militarism played out in six ways over the last days.

First, there are too many weapons in the hands of too many people. These weapons killed Philando Castile in a very minor traffic stop (broken tail-light, not even a complaint about his driving), they killed Alton Sterling for selling CDs outside of a convenience store (neither of these men had a gun in their hands), and they killed officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens at the hands of a sniper identified as Micah Johnson. Johnson was killed by robot armed with explosives. The entire US is “gun country” and every effort to create meaningful change is undermined by the NRA and their anti-factual propaganda and the virtually sanctified Second Amendment. 

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From American Baptist Home Missions Society

ABHMS’ Barnabas Partners demands legislative action to end police brutality

from American Baptist Home Missions Society

With deep concern for increasing racial violence in the United States, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) has published a statement from Barnabas Partners demanding legislative action to end police brutality.

Barnabas Partners—a group of American Baptist clergy convened by ABHMS Executive Director Emeritus Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins, III and Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr. several years ago—encourages pastors, shares knowledge, advocates for justice and prays for the organization.

The statement advocates three steps toward healing the injustice and violence that pervades American society today: First, America needs to reckon with its historic race issues; second, America needs to confront the spread of racism in the ranks of its police forces; and, third, there is an urgent need for the White House and Justice Department to name the evils of racial bias and police brutality as unacceptable and unlawful.

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End police killing of innocent Black lives: A Statement from Barnabas Partners

from ABHMS Barnabas Partners

We face a national crisis in the United States of America concerning increasing violence and the growing threat to innocent Black lives from America’s police. Daily in America, Black citizens are slain by police officers who are publicly sworn to protect the citizenry. This national crisis is well documented from Baton Rouge, La., to Falcon Heights, Minn.; from Waller County, Tex., to Ferguson, Mo.; from Chicago, Ill., to Savannah, Ga.; from Cleveland, Ohio, to Staten Island, N.Y.; from the mountains to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam. However, time and again, when police brutalize and murder Black people, they escape criminal prosecution.

Urgently needed is a remedy that protects Black people from persistent police brutality and murder. Also needed are sweeping policy changes advocated by the White House and by the United States Justice Department requiring prosecution of police officers that keep with the standard protocols for investigating and prosecuting civilians when homicides are committed. Ultimately, we need respect for the dignity of all human life with a firm resolve as a nation to live together in peace as a beloved community.

Click here to read the full statement...

A Letter from Riverside's Pastors

from Riverside Baptist Church, New York City

Tomorrow we will gather for worship with hearts heavy and souls weary. This week the sins of our nation were laid bare again in the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens. While their names grace the covers of our newspapers, there were many killed this week whose stories were not filmed and whose names we don't know. This is what it's like to live in America today, and it is soul-crushing.

We know too well the sins that are tearing us apart - racism, white supremacy, the idolatry of violence, poverty, hatred, anger, apathy, and so much more. As Christians, we also know that there is a power stronger than all of these, the power of love. And that Jesus calls us, again and again, to summon the courage to live that love with each other for a world so desperate to see love in action.

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From Rev. Elijah Zehyoue

A Letter From Pastor Elijah

from Rev. Elijah Zehyoue, Pastoral Resident at Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, DC

Earlier this week, in my hometown of Baton Rouge, LA, and 37-year old Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police. Then later in the week Philando Castile was murdered in Minnesota, and then yesterday 5 police officers were murdered while protecting peaceful protesters in Dallas.

As I follow the updates on social media and in the news, and continue to listen and meet with you all, I know that so many in our community are deeply hurting because of how chaotic the times seem to be. From the middle of June through today it seems as though our news cycle is dominated by stories of horrific violence and terror against the specific communities that we seek to minister to and with. As a church that deeply believes the love of Christ and reign of the Prince of Peace, we reiterate our solidarity with the victims of hate at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, victims of terrorism during Ramadan, and Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, The 5 slain Dallas Police Officers, and all of their families.

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America's Problem is Not Racial Tension - It's Racism

from Rev. Elijah Zehyoue (originally posted on Religion News Service)

America does not have a problem with racial tension. Racial tension is simply the fever indicating the disease. America has a problem with racism.

After the shooting by police officers of Alton Sterling — whose funeral was Friday (July 15) — I left Washington, D.C., to return to my hometown of Baton Rouge, La., where it happened.

While there, I attended two church services. One was at University Baptist, a predominantly white church, and the other was at New Life Missionary Baptist, a predominantly African-American church.

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From the NAACP

NAACP Statement on the Fatal Shooting of Alton Sterling During Police Encounter in Baton Rouge, LA

Yet again Americans are confronted with another fatal shooting of an African-American at the hands of the police. Behind the latest horrific video and hashtag is the humanity of a young black man slain on film whose name was Alton Sterling. The death of another African-American – captured in shocking detail on video - at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve the community is heartbreaking. Beyond heartbreaking, this latest tragedy calls for officials to break the inertia that may paralyze local and state authorities in insuring justice for the family, friends and community of Alton Sterling.

Specifically and first, all state and municipal authorities should be directed by Governor Edwards to cooperate with and actively support the ongoing Justice Department investigation. Second, the cooperation with the the federal investigation should be monitored by state authorities, and if the facts bear out, pursue the filing of state charges.  Third, based on the results of all state and federal investigations, if and as the facts warrant, the police involved in the shooting of Mr. Sterling should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Fourth, the Baton Rouge Police Department should undergo a thorough and comprehensive review to insure that its policing practices adhere to the Justice Department protocols and the Presidential Commission on 21st Century Policing.

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A Man Was Lynched Yesterday

from Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP

There was a 21st century lynching yesterday. And the day before that, too.

This has to stop.

Activists created the NAACP more than a century ago to fight racialized violence.

Then, we called it "lynching." Today, we call it "police brutality," but the effect is still the same — our lives are in danger. Endangered by some of the very people who are called to protect and serve us. We are all tense, angry, devastated, and grieving.

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Young Black Men are Dying, and Fear Keeps us from Love

from Guy Sayles

Recent news, as so often, has brought images and descriptions of young black men shot by police officers. The narrative is sickeningly familiar: a young person dies; protests take place; authorities promise a full and fair investigation and, if warranted, consequences for the officers involved; reminders by journalists and community leaders of the long series of these deaths; calls for mutual respect and genuine collaboration between minority communities and law enforcement agencies; and ongoing insistence on reform of the justice system.

Hardly anything changes. Young people continue to die.

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For What Do We Hope?

A prayer from Ken Sehested, BPFNA Founding Director

For what do we hope?

We hope for the Beloved's Promise to
overtake the world's broken-hearted threat.

For what do we long?

We long for the moist goodness of God
to outlast the parched climate of despair.

For what do we lack?

We lack for nothing--
save the need for hearts enlarged by the
assurance that every hostage will be freed.

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Paynter asks CBF congregations to join in prayer, pursue racial reconciliation

from Suzii Paynter, CBF Executive Coordinator

In the aftermath of the police-involved shooting deaths of two African-Americans -- Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in Saint Paul, Minn., -- and the deaths of five police officers in Dallas overnight, CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter has asked Cooperative Baptists and their congregations to join in prayer for peace through justice in their communities and to stand shoulder to shoulder in pursuit of racial reconciliation.

The devastating officer-involved shooting deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in Saint Paul, Minn, and more recently, the deaths of five Dallas law enforcement officers overnight Thursday, have served as the latest in an all-too-common rash of violence in our nation. Even while details as to the perpetrators, motivations and victims of the Dallas attacks are still unfolding, our nation is reeling from the latest police-involved shootings of African-American men in Louisiana and Minnesota, which are rooted in real disparities and inequalities that continue to impact our society.

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