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St. Louis Clergy Condemns Violence After Protests, Says It Hurts The Movement

The Rev. Darryl Gray and other members of the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition say the violence that has occurred after protests detracts from the movement for black lives. June 2, 2020
Andrea Henderson | St. Louis Public Radio
The Rev. Darryl Gray and other members of the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition say the violence that has occurred after protests detracts from the movement for black lives.

African American ministers in St. Louis are upset about the looting and the violence that followed protests against police brutality this week.

They want people in the region to know that the looting that occurred late Monday, the shots fired at police and the slaying of former St. Louis police captain David Dorn have no place in the movement against police brutality.

People in St. Louis have joined demonstrators across the nation this week expressing outrage at the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and those of other black people.

“The anger and the frustration and the hurt and the pain that a community has faced for over 400 years is not going to result in peace, but we are trying to be nonviolent,” said the Rev. Darryl Gray, political adviser for the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition.

The group is asking the community to not judge those calling for justice and an end to the extrajudicial killings of black people with those who are fighting against systemic racism.

Gray said he understands that many in the St. Louis region will be angry about the riots that have occurred after protests. But he urged people to consider what caused them. 

“Please understand the acts of violence, try to understand it. Although we don't condone it, all of us have a responsibility as to what has been happening in this city and around this country,” he said.

Gray said the only way to stop the riots and looting is stop police officers from killing black people. 

He said the clergy has met with Mayor Lyda Krewson to discuss police reforms.

“The mayor said there needs to be a culture change, and I agree with her,” Gray said. “There needs to be a culture change among police officers who feel that they can look right into the camera and kill an unarmed black man. That's the culture change that needs to happen.”

Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, said the looting and other acts of violence that took place downtown and in predominantly black north St. Louis primarily hurt African Americans, which takes the focus off systemic issues that need to be addressed.

“I also understand the pain and anger and the grief that these young people are feeling because I am, too. I'm tired of coming to the streets and protesting,” Aldridge said. “But at the end of the day, we continue to see a system that is in place that is saying your life does not matter, your education does not matter. Your health care does not matter. Your community does not matter.” 

Members of the clergy coalition said they disagree with Krewson’s decision to impose a curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. because they think it will spark more unrest. Aldridge said a curfew may increase the violence and implores state officials not to send in the National Guard.

“The National Guard is gonna bring back a lot of trauma that we are still dealing with,” he said. “A lot of people still have not got counseling since the Ferguson uprising.”

The clergy coalition is urging the community to push the conversation further than police brutality against black people. Gray suggests talking about how the larger issue of structural racism against black Americans is detrimental to the entire nation. 

“Pain is still being the last hired, first fired,” he said. “Pain is still working for less than minimum wage with two jobs. Pain is still mass incarceration. Pain is still George Floyd. Pain is still Tamir Rice. Pain is Sandra Bland. Eric Gardner pain and Mike Brown pain. That's what has never been treated.”

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Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.

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