Freddie Gray Church

Local Baltimore church leaders speak out about the Freddie Gray case and the riots that have followed.

Friday, six police officers were arrested and arraigned for a range of charges including fatal injury, manslaughter, and murder of Freddie Gray. The chief prosecutor of Baltimore issued these crimes quickly. State attorney Marilyn Mosby had just filed the charges yesterday, immediately after receiving results of the medical examiner’s report.

Freddie Gray was a young black man who was arrested by the police April 12. The police officers have stated that they chased the young man down and handcuffed him in their vehicle when he ran. However, they have been “unable” to explain why they arrested him nor what occurred to cause the severe spinal injury that ended his life on April 19. His funeral was held Monday with 2,300 attendees filling the New Shiloh Baptist Church. Gray’s case is yet another in a line of black men who have died by the hands of police officers. Gray’s death has sparked huge debates throughout the nation, causing fears of law enforcement to rise. During the funeral, the police department released a statement that they had “credible threat” that gangs had entered a “partnership to take out law enforcement officers.”

Religious Leaders Argue about their Roles

Jamal Bryant, the pastor for Empowerment Temple AME Church, is a well-known leader in the on-going civil rights and social justice movement. In particular, he feels he has taken a leading role in protesting the murder of Freddie Gray, leading rallies and demanding the six officers involved be arrested. In the past, he has engaged in similar roles during times of distress and violence. In 2012, he was in the front for Trayvon Martin’s family. He spent weeks in Ferguson to protest Michael Brown’s death, as well as to hold demonstrations. In Baltimore, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made him the co-chair on a task force to study body cameras for police. As a whole, Bryant feels that the “role of the pastor ought to be lending direction and giving insight to discerning the times. It’s about making sure that we see the larger picture.”

Others encourage their followers to hold an open mind, and not be so quick to judge. Reverend Louis Wilson of New Song Community Church in Sandtown-Winchester, only blocks from where Gray was arrested, says that “As Christian leaders, our job is not to rush to judgment. It’s to stand up for the truth. We can’t make assumptions and say ‘arrest and fire them’. Based on what? On an inconclusive video? Gather the facts, then let the evidence shape what you believe.” Others, such as Reverend Alvin J. Gwynn Sr. agree, saying that they are “innocent until proven guilty.”

However, to that Bryant speaks of the $6.3 million that has been paid out in Baltimore since 2011 for police brutality and abuse to citizens. He notes that Gray didn’t “have due process when they arrested him with no probable cause. How do the police have covering that citizens don’t?” Castrillon counters by quoting Ephesians 4: “Be angry, but sin not”, encouraging protestors to protest peacefully.

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