Local pastors, activists express anger, frustration over police shootings

Published:
Updated:

The prayer service to kick off the 46th annual Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration included a moment of silence for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile Thursday night at Light of the World Christian Church.

Following the silence, though, real talk about the frustration in the African-American community about black men dying at the hands of police officers and what follows.

"Far too often, there's a shooting. There's a protest. There's no indictment. There's no justice. There's another shooting.  There's a protest. There's no indictment. There's no justice," said Rev. Dr. David Hampton, pastor of Light of the World Church and deputy mayor for the city of Indianapolis.

Hampton continued...

"There's another shooting. There's a protest. There's no indictment. There's no justice.  And before we get over the last shooting, there's another shooting, there's a protest. There's no indictment. There's no justice and all we want is justice," Hampton told the crowd gathered, saying something needed to change. "It's high time we begin to review our country's justice system. The inherent biases that do exist that are not just apparent, but evident in these type of incidences, time and time again," said Hampton.

Just down the street, another discussion was taking place at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. This one was planned months ago, before this week's shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota.

"The question isn't, 'Is it happening?' The question is, and I know I'm a pastor and all the rest, the question is, 'What the hell are we going to do about it?'"said panel moderator Pastor Michael K. Jones from the Progressive Missionary Baptist Church.

"Our tax dollars pays law enforcement. It doesn't pay gang bangers to not be gang bangers to gang bangers," said panelist Martin Whitfield, a former LAPD officer and US Navy and Persian Gulf War veteran.

"We have a great expectation of law enforcement. Don't compare black-on-black crime to what we're seeing with law enforcement," said Whitfield, explaining that the issues are not related. "People-on-people crime is horrible. But we're not dealing with that. We're dealing with law enforcement versus minorities."

Thursday's panel discussion was held before a screening of the movie Straight Outta Compton, which looks at the rise of rap group NWA in the mid-1980s amidst clashes between LAPD and the black community in Compton, California.

"The frustration is still there. The need for people to be heard and for action to be taken is still there," said Jane Henegar, the executive director with the ACLU Indiana. "Racial profiling is unconstitutional and it's ineffective. It breeds a distrust between the community that officers are sworn to protect and the officer that have a job to do and it serves no one."

"It's critically important to show black lives matter and it's not trendy," said panelist and local freelance journalist Ariana Beedie. "It's more than, 'Hey, it's a hashtag.' It's, 'No, remember the real message here' and yeah, all lives matter, but that doesn't count until everyone is equal," said Beedie.

The dialogue will continue locally this week. Light of the World will host a community discussion this Saturday from 4-6 pm.