Citing controversial extrajudicial killings and sexual assaults by police officers, a small group of California churches have made a drastic pledge to stop calling the police on blacks, even when they commit violent crimes.
"We are a church that has witnessed and experienced violence from policing systems. Members of our community have been surveilled, harassed, and sexually assaulted by law enforcement officers," Nichola Torbett, a lay leader at First Congregational Church of Oakland, said at a press conference last Wednesday.
"We feel like we can no longer tolerate the trauma inflicted on our communities by policing systems. Our love for one another and our faith call us to end our participation in systems that pit the safety of some of us against the safety of others of us," she added as she recited the names of a number of individuals who have died at the hands of police, including Stephon Clarke who died after being shot multiple times by Sacramento police officers last month.
"We honor the memory of all who have been killed by state violence by declaring our intention to reduce reliance on policing and incarceration and develop community-based safety and conflict resolution initiatives. We are not anti-police but pro-community. We invest in human beings and in relationship while we divest from systems that harm human beings and relationship," she said.
In addition to Racial Justice activism, Nicola Torbett is a lesbian who advocates for Sexual Justice (LGBTQ rights). She wrote this in 2009:
At its heart, we believe that the radical potential of being queer is the way that it demonstrates that anyone can love everyone. As lovers who challenge conventional notions of who may love whom, queer people have the potential to show forth in a particularly vivid way the Spirit-given capacity, given to all people, to love in spite of all obstacles – in spite of homophobia, in spite of state sanctions, in spite of family expectations, in spite of workplace discrimination, in spite of rejection from our religious communities, in spite of all of the accumulated wounds incurred by being people who do not conform to cultural norms.
Another 'pastor' who is calling for a boycott on the police department is Denver's Anne Dunlap. Meet Reverend Anne Dunlap:
"I’m Rev. Anne Dunlap, pastor, lesbian, activist, and herbal warrior. I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC) — a “street” pastor for racial justice and solidarity, I also coordinate faith work for Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), teach occasionally at the Iliff School of Theology, and work at my friend’s goat farm.
"I believe in the power of solidarity, community, and fierce love in the work of disrupting and dismantling the white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy and living each day more fully into the beloved community. My own social location in that work is as a white lesbian/queer cis woman, a highly-educated US citizen living on colonized land in Denver, CO. I endeavor to live as a commitment to fierce love and collective liberation in all I do. My faith has motivated my advocacy work in the world. My reading of the Bible inspires me to act."
Regarding boycotting police, Anne had this to say:
"It's a challenging ask," the Rev. Anne Dunlap, a United Church of Christ minister who leads Racial Justice outreach to faith communities told The Washington Post. "It's a big deal to invite us, as white folks, to think differently about what safety means. Who do we rely on? What is safe? For whom? Should our safety be predicated on violence for other communities? And if not, what do we do if we're confronted with a situation, because we are, as congregations? ... How do we handle it if there's a burglary? How do we handle it if there's a situation of violence or abuse in the congregation?"
"I had some hard conversations with pastors and members," Dunlap told The Washington Post. "These were progressive congregations that had participated in our work in the past — hung Black Lives Matter banners etc... They said, 'We appreciate our relationship with the police. We don't want to put that at risk.'"
She believes however that police reform will not get rid of police violence and the only solution is to "dismantle policing as a system."
A lot of people don't believe in the police. Until they need them.
"Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake" (Romans 13:1-5).