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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/28/15

Baltimore Riots Against Police Violence--Tikkun and the Baptists Response

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We endorse the statement below from the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Police violence, particularly though not only against African Americans, requires immediate and forceful response at every level of our society. People should be protesting in the streets of our country wherever an ethical consciousness has not yet been snuffed out by cynicism, surplus powerlessness, indifference, or inability to focus due to mind-destroying absorption in the distractions that abound in cyberspace, the media, and the entertainments of contemporary American society.

At the very least, everyone should be writing to all of their elected officials from President Obama to the local city councils and state legislators asking for new laws that require an independent prosecutor in every city and for every state (to be chosen by a panel of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights leaders and lawyers) to investigate every incident of alleged police violence and charged with the ability to directly bring to trial those for whom there is strong reason to believe that they violated the civil and/or human rights of those assaulted, , to penalize through pay reductions every police officer in the district in which one of them engages in acts of excessive violence (because the collective energy of that police community will soon change the ethos of violence that exists in many police forces when they face personal financial loss as a result of the actions of one of the members of their local police district), the creation of independent police review boards personned by clergy and civil rights leaders who have the power to impose financial penalities on the leadership of police forces that have had more than 3 excessive violence instances in a year validated by the independent prosecutor, and an automatic reduction in the police budget in any city where more than 5 excessive violence instances have been validated by the independent police review boards. And we welcome other suggestions as well from our readers about strategies to end police violence. In addition, every classroom in America receiving federal or state public monies should be reuquired to teach about civil rights, human rights, the history of the violation of those rights by police and others, and the proposals currenlty being brought forward by communities of color and other groups facing discrimination.

After reading the statement below, please also read the suggestions of Allen Baptist Church deacon (and former police officer) Reginald Lyles which he delivered at the Tikkun "Town Hall Conference on Reclaiming America" in December 2014 and which is reprinted below the official Baptist statement.

Statement on Events in Baltimore

As I look out upon the tragic events occurring in the streets of Baltimore, MD,

I cannot help but feel shocked and brokenhearted. Anger over the yet unexplained death of Freddie Gray is one thing, but to respond through the violence which has engulfed the city is another matter. The rioting, looting and burning does not accomplish anything.

The anger underlying this behavior is understandable. Over the last year we have seen too many unarmed Black men killed with no consequences for those who committed the act. Living in neighborhoods where there are no jobs, no quality education, no livable wage, and the resurgence of racism all leads to a sense of hopelessness and despair.

After a certain point, people begin to throw their hands up and cry out in hopeless resignation, "What's the use?" All of us need to be concerned. These same conditions exist everywhere. It could be your city or mine next. And until these underlying conditions are addressed, none of us can be comfortable.

As the PNBC, our challenge is how do we reach an unparented and unchurched generation to teach them the history of nonviolent protest as the strategy to create social change? Those who have engaged in these violent actions have surrendered the moral high ground to those who could care less about our condition and our hopes. Nonviolent protest was calling attention to the culture of police brutality and initiated a conversation about change. Now that message is being lost.

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Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun and national chair of the Tikkun Community/ Network of Spiritual Progressives. People are invited to subscribe to Tikkun magazine or join the interfaith organization the Network of Spiritual Progressives-- "both of which can be done by (more...)
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