Los Angeles Rally Highlights a Divide Between Clergy on How to Bring About Police Reform

Demonstrators take photos with a police officer outside of the Los Angeles Police Department on June 2, 2020, in Los Angeles. RNS photo by Alejandra Molina

LOS ANGELES (RNS) — Demonstrators sang hymns with Los Angeles police and posed for photos with officers alongside a man holding a large wooden cross with the words “Jesus is Justice and Peace.”

Officers handed out water bottles and took a knee at the protesters’ requests. At one point, protesters in unison chanted the Bible verse “The anointing breaks the yoke!” Christian music blasted through speakers.

Demonstrators then stood in a circle and created a pathway after they were told a special guest would be coming. It was Mayor Eric Garcetti, who took a knee in a symbol of solidarity with the people gathered to protest George Floyd’s death.

“Get off your knee!” one activist shouted. “Defund the police!” others yelled. Demonstrators tried shushing them, annoyed they couldn’t hear the mayor and faith leaders speak.

This was the incongruous scene outside the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters in downtown LA on Tuesday (June 2).

The faith-based rally highlighted different ways clergy and religious leaders are interacting with law enforcement as they seek to end racist policies and police brutality toward black people.

Some religious leaders have stood with police in news conferences to try to dissolve protests that resulted in looting and vandalism, while other clergy have gotten pepper-sprayed in confrontations with officers in protests nationwide.

In LA County, this rally was a stark contrast from the weekend protests, in which law enforcement shot rubber bullets toward demonstrators and journalists. And it took place just a day after LAPD Chief Michel Moore’s controversial comment that people looting were as responsible for Floyd’s death as the Minneapolis police officers were.

The Rev. K.W. Tulloss, third from left, of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Southern California, poses for a photo with other faith leaders outside of the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters on June 2, 2020. RNS photo by Alejandra Molina

The Rev. K.W. Tulloss, of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Southern California, said his group helped organize the Tuesday gathering “as a way for us to return the focus back to George Floyd.”

“When we had all these lootings and individuals that take advantage of certain aspects of peaceful protests, we said we wanted to do it right,” Tulloss said in an interview with Religion News Service.

Tulloss and other faith leaders met with Garcetti for about two hours after the mayor’s appearance, which Tulloss said was unplanned. Tulloss said they spoke about the importance of a city budget that “is not heavily going toward the LAPD and their practices.”

Instead, he said, more money should go toward counseling and homeless programs. He said they asked the mayor to support services that would help heal the community.

“There’s a lot of trauma within our community, and part of the looting and the things that we’ve witnessed the last few days have been because of the trauma of individuals. This is their outlet,” Tulloss said.

“We wanted to make sure that we’re setting the tone of how we should do it, what’s the right way of going about doing it,” Tulloss added.

Pastor Stephen “Cue” Jn-Marie understands people are doing “what they feel they should do,” but he said the demonstration was tone-deaf. He didn’t attend the gathering but voiced his concerns about it on social media.

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Source: Religion News Service