Statement from ACT Leaders in Ferguson

Sacramento ACT Clergy Assisting in Ferguson, Missouri

On Tuesday, Sacramento Area Congregations Together (ACT) leaders flew to Ferguson Tuesday to bear witness, listen to the cries of the community and assist with community organizing for truth and justice in the killing of Mike Brown.   They have witnessed the pain the community, participated in peaceful demonstrations and encouraged dialogue and reconciliation between law enforcement and the community.  They are a cohort of clergy leaders from the PICO National Network across the country flying into Ferguson to provide support. 

Below is a statement from ACT's Clergy Leader, Pastor Les Simmons of South Sacramento Christian Center on his experience.  He is accompanied by Pastor Kevin Brown of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, and ACT's executive director, Ashlin Malouf Spinden

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I came to Ferguson as a leader in Sacramento ACT to assist our affiliate organization in Missouri to organize the community in the quest for justice for Michael Brown. It has been a valuable experience, witnessing what is going on, and being a part of early stages to change this situation.

What's going on in Ferguson can happen in any urban city where there is no relationships or trust between community leaders, law enforcement and elected officials.  There is no existing community organizing taking place. It's clear that the racial tension has been brewing for a while, and the killing of Michael Brown was the tipping point. 

Ferguson lacks community relationships which creates a disconnect and mistrust.  None of the city councilmembers participated in the marches. The mayor believes that there is no racial animosity, despite the outcry from the people he represents.   Being out there marching, its clear that there is a lack of training on community policing, clear disconnect in how law enforcement engaged the community - from their fully armed body guard suits, tanks, assault riffles, and tear gas - this enforcement was a clear misuse of power that provoked fear in the community instead of trust.  There is also a lack of accountability, no cameras in the police cars, no mechanisms for law enforcement to answer for what they do.  A number of my colleagues from PICO, our national organization, were tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets during peaceful demonstration.  The police came in and searched a church where we held all of our supplies and materials, a sacred space.

Sacramento has taken great leadership to establish conversations with the community and law enforcement through initiatives like Ceasefire and Cops and Clergy.  We must continue to work together as community leaders, city officials and law enforcement to build bridges and foster multi-sector collaboration.  Working with law enforcement, city officials, Sacramento ACT, neighborhood organizing and events, we have made strides in building connections between officials and those they serve.   We must keep lines of communication open between the community and law enforcement.  If people do not have an outlet to be heard, they will make their own outlet.   

Ferguson is 70% black and only 3 black police officers.  In order to keep Sacramento one of the safest cities, we must build community policing that understands racial diversities represented, is culturally competent and embraces diversity.

What we want to see out of Ferguson and other cities is a commitment to truth and a commitment to change.  Only way to see that is to understand that we all have areas to grow in.  Young people in Ferguson need leadership in order to speak to elected officials and demand that they listen.

Yesterday, over 300 clergy including Pastor Brown from Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, and Sacramento Act director Ashlin Malouf Spinden, acted out of their faith values as peacekeepers and encouraged dialogue and reconciliation.   However it is difficult to keep the peace where there is no due process for civil rights violations.  Please keep us in your prayers. 

Les Simmons
Sacramento ACT Clergy Leader
Pastor, South Sacramento Christian Center

 

For more information, pictures and inquiries, please contact Danielle Williams

916-834-9137, danielle@sacact.org

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Sacramento ACT is a faith-based, non-partisan, multi-issue, grassroots organization, representing more than 40,000 families through 52 member congregations in Sacramento County. The mission of Sacramento ACT is to empower everyday people to create a more just community through congregation-based organizing. ACT is an affiliate of the PICO National Network. Visit www.sacact.org for more information on ACT.

Lifelines to Healing, a campaign of Sacramento ACT, utilizes faith based community organizing to end mass incarceration and gang violence and advance economic dignity in Sacramento's underserved communities.  ACT's Lifeline's to Healing Campaign previously played an integral role in the Ceasefire Strategy and recently worked with the Sacramento Kings, Turner Construction, Building Trades and other community partners to negotiate the Priority Worker Program - that prioritizes unemployed, low income, foster youth and formerly incarcerated for 70 Arena construction apprenticeships.