By Vernon A. Williams
“These are times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet, we have this consolation with us, the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
– Thomas Paine, “The Crisis” 1776
Already in the throes of a global pandemic victimizing African Americans at twice the rate of others, our nation became submerged in yet another catastrophe – unseen in generations – in the wake of the brutal police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Because our faith is unshaken and we know God is in control, the moral authority of the pulpit and the influence of the Holy Spirit compel believers to articulate the unjust suffering of those Christ embraces as “the least of mine,” and to renounce tyranny.
The leader of the free world stood in the Rose Garden this week and claimed to be an ally of “peaceful and nonviolent protest” – a right provided not by his graciousness but rather by the founders of this great nation in the Constitution of the United States.
After that remark, the president ordered law enforcement to use flash-bang grenades, tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray to disperse an orderly crowd demonstrating outside the White House to clear a path for him to walk to a church across the street. Innocent people were hurt, rudely pushed aside, so the Donald could misuse a place of worship to take a propaganda photo he can post on his notorious social media sites.
At the foot of the entrance to the sanctuary, the incumbent failed to offer healing scripture or inspirational prayer; he offered no sympathy, understanding or condolences for the mourning of families impacted by unjust police violence. He made no pleas for peace.
Instead he held the Holy Bible upside down in one hand for photographers in symbolism to his misappropriated evangelism while his words called on state governments to exercise military powers on the people of this country; to invoke dominance over those simply vying to express their legitimate discontent.
Afterwards, Bishop Marian Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington D.C. expressed outrage. She said Trump came to exploit that church without permission or even the courtesy of advance notification to its leadership. She called the message conveyed in the conspicuous publicity stunt, opposite of the teaching of Jesus Christ.
Despite the president’s oppressive actions against D.C. demonstrators and his ill-conceived misappropriation of church grounds, all of his bombastic rhetoric had no impact on overnight protest activities which unfortunately brought more looting and violence. There were the same demonstrations coast to coast and around the world.
In the days after the misguided remarks of the incumbent, the recurring theme included:
Demonstrators filling the streets in all 50 states with countless police confrontations with protesters. Worldwide proclamations of Black Lives Matter rung out around the world in the U.K., China, New Zealand, Russia, Australia, Iran, Brazil, New Zealand, Germany, and Canada.
- Governors blasted by the president for not being tough enough face the threat of federal troops being deployed for military occupation in U.S. cities.
- Federal prisons across the country are on “lockdown” for the first time in 25 years and the first time ever without provocation of prisoner uprisings or revolt.
- Four St. Louis Police Officers were struck by gunfire (none were life threatening); two more officers were shot and wounded in Las Vegas; an NYPD officer was left in critical condition after being struck by a hit-and-run driver. In contrast, police joined protests in a show of solidarity in numerous cities including Houston, Minneapolis, Washington, Phoenix and New York.
The killing of George Floyd has officially been ruled a homicide. The man who held his knee on his neck for eight minutes and 47 seconds – Derek Chauvin – was still in jail on $500,000 bail at press time. To that point, the charges remained third degree murder and manslaughter. Protesters are extremely disappointed for what seems like a softened approach to trying to convict a hardened killer. More serious charges may come.
Even after the remaining three officers involved are finally arrested, the world will remain perplexed and continue to pose the question, “Why in the world did it take so long to apprehend suspects whose crime was committed before the eyes of the world and replayed dozens of time and on hundreds of platforms, reaffirming the obvious.
The outcome of this tragedy and the fatal shootings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor will determine the fate of our nation. This won’t go away or be swept under the rug. Unlike any previous demonstrations, this uprising has formed an unprecedented alliance of all races, religions, nationalities and political affiliations. The world is watching.
The next chapters will foretell the most significant chapter written conveying the heart, mind and souls of America. Some remain skeptical. But there is something about this set of events and the movement that it has inspired that suggests that we will not return to business as usual. A change is gonna come!
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].