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December 2, 2014

Statement on the Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Related to Darren Wilson

The questions for us today as Christians and as churches are, “How can we honor the life and memory of Michael Brown? What can we do in the face of yet-another incident when a young, unarmed Black man was killed by a police officer? How do we respond to the decision of the grand jury sitting in Clayton, Missouri, that has now prevented a public and open trial of Officer Darren Wilson in his murder of Michael Brown?”

As people of faith, this statement comes to express our deep disappointment and outrage at the decision by the grand jury to bring no indictment against Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri. Had there been an independent prosecutor and a public trial where the facts of the case were presented in a transparent and fair manner, we can only believe the outcome of a trial and the response of the community in Ferguson might have been different.


As member communions of Churches Uniting in Christ, our concern and outrage is born in an era of case-after-case of a justice system that fails to hold accountable police officers who kill unarmed Black men, women, and children. Too often the presumptions of threat and guilt are ascribed to people of color leading them to be vulnerable in their encounters with the police who are paid by public tax dollars to protect us. Law enforcement and the county prosecutor have handled this matter in such an inappropriate and biased manner, no one will be satisfied, many questions will remain unanswered, and it is now unlikely that justice will be done.

We are mindful that several religious and activist communities in Ferguson/St. Louis have been raising their voices and keeping this issue before the nation for the past three months and are planning constructive responses to the grand jury’s decision. We commend and support their efforts. In particular we are supportive of the young activists and the clergy who are walking with them. While the media and others had focused on the three out of 105 days where violence occurred, we are mindful that over 105 days were filled with consistent peaceful demonstrations. We commend the organizers of this response and the churches and faith communities in the St. Louis area who have declared themselves to be “sanctuary churches” and “sacred places” advocating for non-violence and calm. While we do not condone the destruction of property, we do understand in the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “a riot is the language of the unheard.”

We join in supporting the family of Michael Brown, the Ferguson community and wider nation in continuing to seek justice for the killing of Michael Brown. We add our voice to the words of Michael Brown’s father issued in a video statement on November 20 calling for everyone in the St. Louis region will avoid any violence. . . and for all persons to seek to end all racial profiling and police intimidation, and to work together to heal, to create lasting change for all people regardless of race."

Trusting that the residents in Ferguson know what is best for their community, the member communions of Churches Uniting in Christ support the following actions:

1. Because it is clear that the Black community, which is 67% of Ferguson population does not have confidence in Officer Darren Wilson, and because a number of his decisions and actions have raised questions, we call for his immediate resignation or termination from the Ferguson Police Department;

2. Because of concerns raised by the Department of Justice and the lack of confidence of the citizens of Ferguson, MO, we call for the resignation of the Chief of Police, and for renewed efforts to increase persons of color on the police force in Ferguson, Missouri;

3. Because the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson is symptomatic of a justice system that fails to hold accountable police officers who kill unarmed people of color, we recognize that our concerns are about a much broader national crisis in law enforcement and the militarization of local police offices. Too often the presumption of threat and guilt is ascribed to black men and women leading them to be vulnerable in their encounters with the police. Therefore, we ask ministers and community leaders to organize rallies in their churches and communities across the nation calling for:
Federal legislation requiring all police (local, state and federal) to have lapel cameras to record actions of police and those they stop. This will protect police who act appropriately and citizens who are treated inappropriately.

A national campaign to improve relationships between police and the communities they police, inclusive of the police forces that reflect the demographics of the communities they serve, and training in alternative responses to youth and young adults.

Because we remain a people of faith, we trust the promises of the prophets that ”one day the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall like down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11: 6) and hold to the call to “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” we implore our member churches to continue to be in prayer and solidarity for the family of Michael Brown, the community of Ferguson, and all people seeking justice and peace.

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