Speed Reads

George Floyd protests

Religious leaders turn D.C.'s Black Lives Matter Plaza into church for day of interfaith protests

The protests for racial equality and justice sparked by the police killing of George Floyd started out as a largely spontaneous phenomenon, but Sunday's faith-based events in Washington, D.C., were planned — by black clergy, mostly, but also the NAACP. "Black Lives Matter Plaza was transformed into a church Sunday morning, with thousands of mostly African American worshipers praying, protesting, kneeling, and dancing near the White House after marching from the National Museum of African American History and Culture," The Washington Post reports.

Black church leaders had refrained from holding their own event partly out of safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, and marchers were urged to stay six feet apart and masks were strongly encouraged.

"We were waiting for a call for something not just incensed with anger, but something that integrated our faith," said Pastor Howard-John Wesley of Alexandria, Virginia's historic Alfred Street Baptist Church. "We wanted to carve out something safe for teens — I was scared to let them come downtown. We wanted to teach them about protesting peacefully."

"A broad representation of the black church was on display at different events Sunday, showing general support for the Black Lives Matter movement, from conservative Pentecostals to more liberal Episcopalians and Baptists," the Post reports. "On the details of what to do next, voices varied." By afternoon, clergy from other Christian denominations had joined, plus Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh faith leaders.

"The government stands under God's judgment, and must therefore be held accountable for protecting the innocent, guaranteeing basic freedoms and liberties, and establishing justice and equality," said Bishop LaTrelle Easterling of the United Methodist Church. Rev. William Barber II, leader of the Poor People’s Campaign movement, also spoke, after preaching at Washington National Cathedral earlier in the day. Until America faces "this raw truth" of its history of racial violence, "we can't repent right," Barber said to 14,000 people watching online. "America, you're killing yourself!”