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Letter: A message from Charlotte Clergy on Queen City protests and CMPD response

Mayor Vi Lyles

City Manager Marcus Jones

City Council Members: Julie Eiselt, James Mitchell Jr, Braxton Winston II, Dimple Ajmera, Larken Egleston, Malcolm Graham, Victoria Watlington, Renee Johnson, Matt Newton, Tariq Bokhari, and Edmund Driggs

Chief Putney,

As members of the clergy of Charlotte, we stand with all of those who seek peace and justice in our shared city. Our faith, our love for the city and our desire for accountable partnership compels us to write this letter.

As the nation was lamenting the killing of George Floyd, the Mayor invited a small representative group of clergy to a meeting last Saturday. She and the City Manager shared grave concerns about pending protests in Charlotte and stated that they believed the clergy’s presence in protests made them safer. The Mayor respectfully asked the clergy to be visible on the streets in clerical attire.

All at that meeting agreed to work for peace and restraint on all sides. They also agreed that a deeper, broader and more successful conversation about police tactics would be held after these particularly heated days. The clergy present made it clear that they would not be on the streets at the behest of the city officials or to condone police tactics - but rather for the peace and safety of all.

Clergy, in fact, held up their end of the agreement and were present in protests throughout the weekend. Over the course of these protests, we have been surprised to see the stark contrast between police presence and tactics during the day and those used at night. On the evening of June 2, around 9:15 p.m., a clergy member was corralled with a group marching peacefully and sprayed with an irritant that left him coughing, choked and with sunburned-like places on the little bit of skin that was exposed.

How this event and others have been handled caused many clergy to feel betrayed. While we understand that the evening protest groups include a range of elements, and while we understand that everyone’s safety is paramount, we are deeply disappointed over what we view to be highly militarized and unnecessary uses of force in light of our conversations with the Mayor and City Manager.

Today, we come to hold you accountable to the agreement the Mayor and City Manager offered on Saturday. We acknowledge and endorse the Mayor’s announcement of the State Bureau of Investigation examination of what happened on June 2, but we call on city officials to go further.

We come to you with a clear and publicly stated message:

1. Denounce CMPD’s behavior on Tuesday night, June 2.

2. Denounce the use of tear gas on the streets of Charlotte

3. Denounce the use of kettling as a tactic against peaceful protesters

4. Immediately de-escalate use of force by the police against protesters, period.

We recognize and are grateful that Charlotte has not experienced the depth of violence or destruction as many other cities. We credit all parties involved in the protest and had hoped that Charlotte would avoid further escalation. We fear that the protests may become more unpredictable without a clear acknowledgment of the errors made on June 2 and a pledge that escalation tactics like those will no longer be used or condoned.

As a new police chief is named, we urge the city to use this moment to set a new tone of empathy and understanding within CMPD as has been shown in other cities.

We are with you for the sake of our shared community. Let’s work together to move us forward.

Respectfully,

Rev. LeDayne Mcleese Polaski

Bishop Claude Alexander

Rev. Amy Brooks, Greenfaith

Rev. Bruce Baker Rooks, Pastor, SouthPark Christian Church

Rev. Cassandra Aline Jones, PhD

Pastor Megan Argabrite

Rev. Christy Snow

Rev. Michelle Chappell, Dilworth UMC

Rev. Nathan Arledge

Rev. Taylor Pryde Barefoot

Rabbi Dusty Klass, Temple Beth El

Rev. Cade Barefoot

Rev. Eve Stevens

Rev. Dr. Rodney S. Sadler, Jr.

Rev. Darryl Dayson

Rev. John Cleghorn, Caldwell Presbyterian

Rev. Glencie S. Rhedrick, Co-Chair Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice

Rev. Justin Martin, Caldwell Presbyterian

Rev. Dr. Von Clemans

Cantor Mary Rebecca Thomas

Rabbi Asher Knight, Temple Beth El

Imam John Ederer, Muslim Community Center

Rev. Greg Jarrell, QC Family Tree

Rev. Helms Jarrell, QC Family Tree

Rev. David Roberts, Watershed

Rev. Jacob Pierce, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church

Rev. Andrew Graham Shipley, Missiongathering Christian Church Disciples of Christ

Rev. Mary Frances Comer, Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church

Rev. Eleanor Shell

Rabbi Judy Schindler, Stan Greenspon Ctr at Queens University

Rev. Dr. Scott Hofert, Watershed

Rev. Jay Leach, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte

Rev. Willie Keaton, Mt. Olive Presbyterian

Rev. Dr. Jan Edmiston

General Presbyter, Presbytery of Charlotte

Rev. Amelia Stinson-Wesley, First United Methodist Church

Rev. Dr. Val Rosenquist, First United Methodist Church

Rev. Matthew M. O’Neil, Watershed

Rev. Kate Murphy, The Grove

Rev. Cedric Lundy, Watershed

Rev. Emily K. Hartner, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, Bellefonte Presbyterian Church

Rev Russ Dean, Park Road Baptist

Rev Amy Jacks Dean, Park Road Baptist

Rev Deb Blackwood, PhD, Galilee Center of East Charlotte, Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter

Rev. Joe Clifford, Myers Park Presbyterian

Amanda K. Robertson, Episcopal Church of the Holy Comforter

Rev. Veronica Cannon; First Presbyterian Church Waxhaw

Rev. Carmen Germino, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Davidson

Rev. Floretta L Barbee-Watkins, The Avenue PCUSA

Rev. Fred Robinson

Rev. Nina Wynn

Rev. Amanda Stephenson, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church

Pen Peery, First Presbyterian Church, Charlotte

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