Dayton area church leaders: Protestors’ voices not being heard

A protest event that began at the federal building in downtown Dayton on Saturday, May 30, 2020, moved to the area of Jones Street and Wayne Avenue, where police stopped marchers from entering U.S. 35 by using pepper spray balls and a line of officers. MARSHALL GORBY / STAFF
A protest event that began at the federal building in downtown Dayton on Saturday, May 30, 2020, moved to the area of Jones Street and Wayne Avenue, where police stopped marchers from entering U.S. 35 by using pepper spray balls and a line of officers. MARSHALL GORBY / STAFF

One reason for the violence and destruction that have turned protests over the police custody death of George Floyd into uprisings and riots is that participants don’t think their concerns are being heard, some Dayton-area black church leaders said Sunday.

“The urgency of the moment dictates the manner of our diplomacy,” said Pastor Gerald Cooper of Wayman Chapel AME Church in Dayton said during a sermon.

“Sometimes we can be patient in the face of those who are blocking the door. But times occur when we need to stand up and do something more than simply criticize,” Cooper added.

“Let me be clear: I’m not condoning the riots and the violence. In the strongest terms, I declare that’s not what we ought to be about,” he continued. “It is not helpful. It is not extending — it is not furthering — the cause of justice.”

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Protests Saturday in Dayton turned violent as some participants were arrested in a confrontation with police, who used chemicals to disperse the crowds. Damage was evident to many downtown buildings and businesses Sunday morning.

Riots have broken out in other cities in protests of the death of Floyd, a black man who died in police custody last month after an arresting white officer pinned him to the ground by putting his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes while other officers looked on.

The Minneapolis Police Officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired. He was arrested late Friday morning and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter four days after Floyd died.

Floyd’s death was easily preventable, said Pastor James Washington of Phillips Temple Church in Trotwood.

“It was wicked for those other three police officers…..not to stop him and say ‘no,’ “ Washington said during a sermon.

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“This thing can be solved real quickly. All you’ve got to do is get rid of bad cops. And cops know what cops are bad. That’s all it takes,” he added.

“But it’s also wicked to be setting buildings on fire and destroying property. And throwing rocks at police and tearing down buildings,” Washington said.

Floyd’s death “is quite possibly the worst thing that I have ever witnessed in real life before my eyes,” the Rev. Joshua Ward of Omega Baptist Church in Dayton said.

“And it wasn’t the worst thing simply because he lost his life, but because of how he lost his life – because of how easily preventable it would have been if the people sworn and paid to protect his life actually valued his life and actually gave a damn,” Ward said.

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Ward mentioned several other unarmed black men who have been killed since Trayvon Martin was gunned down in Florida in 2012.

“People are shocked, people are surprised, people are outraged,” he said. “People are disappointed by the way these protests are turning into destructive behavior like looting and rioting.

“I get the disappointment,” Ward added. “I get the shaming and I get the scolding. I get the embarrassment that so many of us who have the privilege of being able to distance themselves from it might feel.

But I also understand why it’s happening,” he continued. “Because folks could only take being ignored for so long before they decided that perhaps they just ain’t hearing me.”

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