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image49WASHINGTON: The National Council of Churches joins with the churches of Baltimore in grieving the loss of Freddie Gray. In the wake of his death and the violence that has followed, we call for sweeping changes to policing methods and procedures that will finally address the causes for the rage being expressed not only in Baltimore, but in cities across the nation. Too many young African-American men and women are dying at the hands of the police, and the nation must correct this injustice immediately. We call upon both rioters and police alike to end their violent acts toward one another.

We dispute the narrative that the riots are being carried out by “criminals and thugs,” as both President Obama and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake have characterized rioters and protesters alike. To engage in dismissive name-calling by political leaders who are unable to offer any reasonable justification for Gray’s death is to simply fuel the fire they seek to calm. In the spirit of Jesus’s recollection of the Great Commandment to “love God” and “love your neighbor as yourself,” we cannot abide by speech that diminishes the lives and sacred worth of the young people of communities broken by violence.

We call upon the press to act on behalf of all people, not simply those in power. We ask the press to not only echo government talking points, but to investigate the reasons for the violence seen in the streets. We call upon the press to report not only how many police are injured in the violence, but how many civilians are as well.

We also applaud the faithful, courageous actions of clergy who have taken to the streets and stood not only for calm and peace, but also for justice and fairness. We urge the clergy of Baltimore and all troubled communities to continue to be an active presence during times of distress and violence.

“For months, and indeed decades, we have seen the tragedies such as the death of Freddie Gray unfold over and over again,” said General Secretary Jim Winkler. “If we as a nation cannot learn from the lessons of these tragedies, we will see our problems get worse. If we can do the kind of soul searching these events call for, we have hope.”