BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — More than 30 African-American pastors from various WNY churches gathered at Calvary Baptist Church in Buffalo to announce they support the efforts for police reform and justice in the Black Community that are being undertaken by protesters across the country.
While the pastors said they stand in solidarity with 'peaceful' protesters, they made it clear that they do not support those who are inciting or taking part in acts of violence. "It should not be followed by looting or rioting because it dilutes the message," said Rev. Mark Blue from the Second Baptist Church in Lackawanna and also the president of the NAACP Buffalo Branch.
The pastors stood on the steps of Calvary Baptist Church while different religious leaders took turns reading the joint statement.
"Our hearts ache and hurt from the burden of being Black in America, and the trauma produced from suffering cycles of these countless injustices," said Pastor Jacqueline Ross Brown from the New Covenant United Church of Christ.
"We the clergy of the City of Buffalo, Erie County, and Niagara Falls, stand together in prayer, unity, and action," added Pastor Corey Gibson from the Calvary Baptist Church.
The pastors said they are now listening to the protesters' message and their congregations with plans to issue a unified list of recommendations, in the near future, to eliminate problems with policing in Black communities.
NAACP Buffalo Branch President Rev. Mark Blue told 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly that he believes one of the most important steps is to repeal a NYS law that shields police officers disciplinary records from the public. Rev. Blue said that makes it impossible to determine which officers are the 'bad apples' with a pattern of racial abuse.
"Those individuals who feel entitlement to do what they do and not be punished for it, they need to be removed from the police force. Everyone needs to be transparent. As public servants, they are beholding to the public," explained Rev. Blue.
During the press conference, the pastors also emphasized the importance of voting in the June 23rd primary and general election in November so that permanent change can be made by lawmakers.
"The revolution that is taking place now must not be allowed to fade into the background," said Pastor Karl Mann from the Good Will Community Church.