After days of absorbing wrenching news and video on the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, members of Baltimore faith communities said they welcomed the chance on Saturday to stage a noisy racial justice rally that they called a “beginning.”
The organizers pledged to continue to regularly hold rallies supporting the Black Lives Matter movement not only in Baltimore, but in Baltimore and Harford counties.
“I think we needed this after this week. You need to feel you’ve added your voice to the cries,” said the Rev. Dr. Amy McCullough, lead pastor at Grace United Methodist Church, in an interview.
As McCullough spoke from outside the church, about 130 demonstrators waved signs with messages such as “Black Lives Matter” and “If Not Now, When?”
As morning rain ended, the demonstrators stood on all four corners of North Charles Street and East Northern Parkway and encouraged motorists to honk in support. There were frequent horn blasts.
The participants were advised by rally leaders to wear masks to guard against the coronavirus, and they did.
“It is just this beginning,” rally organizer Ryan Sattler told the crowd. “We just can’t keep killing each other.”
Sattler said in an interview that similar events would be scheduled every several weeks “all the way to Hunt Valley. Then we’re going to make a sharp right turn into Harford County.”
The other participants included members from Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Faith Presbyterian Church, the Northeast Catholic Community, Congregation Beit Tikvah, the Latino Racial Justice Circle, Pax Christi Baltimore, Bolton Street Synagogue, the Racial Justice Circle, the Black Onyx Movement, Beyond the Boundaries and the Immigration Outreach Service Center.
Blake, who is Black, was shot seven times in the back on Aug. 23 by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. His family said he is paralyzed as a result of his injuries.
The shooting followed the May death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck. Anger over Floyd’s death bubbled over in city after city around the country. Portland, Oregon, has had nightly protests, some violent, since Floyd’s death.
Baltimore has seen a steady stream of mostly peaceful protests this summer.
There is a natural connection between faith and Black Lives Matter protests, McCullough said.
“The Bible has a very deep witness to caring for lives that feel threatened or vulnerable,” she said. “Given the events of the last few months in our country, it felt exceedingly important to show up and speak up.”
The Floyd and Blake incidents were both captured on video.
“The more it’s in your face, you can’t ignore it,” said Pastor Andrew Shropshire of Salem United Methodist Church in Windsor Mill. “Even people who were silent are starting to become vocal. It’s having a voice and feeling like you’re part of a solution.”
But Shropshire, who is Black, said much more work remains. “You fear for your life. You fear for your kids,” he said.
Shropshire works as an armed security guard. “I could ride home with my weapon on my hip, but I put it in my lock box,” he said. “You can get pulled over for a taillight, and you don’t want to be in that predicament.”
Most of the demonstrators Saturday were white. “White Silence equals Violence,” one of their signs stated.
“I think it’s incumbent on white Americans to use the power we have to battle systemic racism,” said Rev. Cat Goodrich of the Faith Presbyterian Church of Baltimore.
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“Somebody over there is holding a sign reading ‘If Not Now, When?’ How many people have to die before we look in the mirror?” Goodrich asked.