NewsLocal News / May 31, 2020

Indy Faith Leaders: 'Opportunity Is At Hand' For Police Accountability

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Indy Faith Leaders: 'Opportunity Is At Hand' For Police Accountability

Pastor J. Rashad Jones, of the Sanders Temple Church of God in Christ, speaks from the Statehouse steps to hundreds of people Sunday, May 21, 2020.

Eric Weddle/WFYI News

Hundreds of people gathered at the Statehouse Sunday to hear the city’s faith leaders call for peaceful protests and accountability from elected officials and the police.

Among the demands made were, independent investigations of police action shootings, training in violence de-escalation for officers and investment in community mental health treatments.

The scene of dozens holding up signs in sunlight, from small children to the eldery, was a stark contrast to what had taken place the night before on the same grounds. At one point Saturday officers could be seen standing on the darkened Statehouse grounds as they fired projectile guns at protestors who marched north on Capital Avenue a few hours after peaceful protests in the city turned into riotous groups.

Read More: Sunday Night Starts With Tear Gas, But City Streets Go Quiet Under Curfew

While those who spoke on the Statehouse steps decried the violence, damage and looting of the previous two nights, some said it was time for the reason behind the anger to be understood.

“We need to have some understanding. We need to understand the generation that feels like nobody listens to them,” said Pastor J. Rashad Jones, of the Sanders Temple Church of God in Christ on the city’s Eastside. “We need to understand the generation that feels like nobody cares. Because this generation feels nobody is hearing their cry.”

“Do we have to have another George Floyd? I thought Eric Garner was enough.”

Garner was killed by a New York Police Department officer in 2014 after he was placed in a chokehold. Garner’s plea of “I can’t breathe” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last week, also cried out he could not breathe while an officer pressed a knee on his neck. Floyd’s death sparked protests and riots in cities across the country.

Jones urged the crowd to take their anger out at the ballot box in November. He said President Trump, state and local officials must understand people will no longer accept police brutality. Any officials that will not speak up against it, he said, must be voted out.

"The time is now. The opportunity is at hand. And the window of opportunity is only open for a short while,” Jones said. “We can not sit on the dock of the bay, and watch the tide roll away.

The rally was organized by Faith in Indiana. Kenneth Sullivian, senior pastor of New Direction Church in Indianapolis, called on Mayor Joe Hogsett to take a leadership role with the spiritual leaders.

“It has been said evil persists when good men say and do nothing, and it is incumbent upon every decent human being to condemn the killing of unarmed black men and women in this country,” Sullivian said before the rally.

Those gathered at the Statehouse marched to the City Market, across from the City-County Building. There hundreds laid down or state for eight minutes, a so-called “die-in.” The time was to represent how long Floyd laid on the ground in Minneapolis with the officer’s knee on his neck.

During the time, the names of black people killed by police were read over a loudspeaker. A drum was beaten twice for every name.

After the eight minutes, the crowd turned to the City-County Building and pointed toward Hogsett’s 25th Floor office and chanted, “Not one more.”

Cynthia Keough held a sign at City Market that read, “I Stand 4 Justice” and contained some of the names read aloud. Keough, 54, a Navy veteran, says the masses of people taking to the street in Indianapolis and across the country are because they are tired of police brutality.

“I’m here for equality and justice, regardless of the skin color, and to ensure that our police department is doing exactly what they're supposed to do protecting the community,” Keough said. “And for those who have lost their life senselessly to police brutality.”

After the demonstration, the crowd slowly dispersed. Many walking along sidewalks next to boarded up businesses that were damaged during the past two nights.

Hogsett issued a curfew from 8 p.m. Sunday until 6 a.m. Monday.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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