With renewed urgency, United Methodist Women repeats its call for an end to the criminalization of communities of color in the United States in the wake of the most recent shooting deaths of two African American men during police encounters in two different U.S. cities and the killing of five police officers by a vigilante sniper in a third city during what started as peaceful protests against those shootings.
United Methodist Women calls for the criminal justice system to hold police accountable for a troubling pattern of extrajudicial killings by police that shows a reckless disregard for African-American life.
United Methodist Women equally condemns vigilantism as a response to extrajudicial police killings and decries the ability of civilians to obtain semiautomatic weapons created for war, such as those used by the sniper to kill the five officers in downtown Dallas, Texas, July 7.
In less than 72, hours two videotapes emerged that captured in real time the deaths of two black men during encounters with police in two U.S. cities. Alton Sterling, 37, was killed by police arresting him outside of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, July 5, while Philando Castile, 32, was killed in his car during a routine traffic stop just outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 6. Both cases are under investigation, with the FBI leading the inquiry in Baton Rouge and monitoring the effort in Minneapolis.
United Methodist Women respects this process. We also call for an end to policing practices that too quickly escalate routine police encounters with people of color into life-threatening events and poison critical community-police relationships. As stated in the “Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the United States” resolution introduced by United Methodist Women and adopted by the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon, in May:
Such over policing erodes community trust in law enforcement and sends a clear message to police that not all Americans are equal under law, as people in targeted communities do not have the same constitutional protections other Americans enjoy (http://calms2016.umc.org/Text.aspx?mode=Petition&Number=263)
Escalating violence can also endanger police officers.
We reiterate the call in “Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the United States” resolution for The United Methodist Church to work for justice:
“The United Methodist Church must work to dismantle policies that assume whole groups of people are criminals and encourage public acceptance of the injustices of racial profiling (2008 Book of Resolutions, #3378), mass incarceration, and disenfranchisement of entire communities demonized as a threatening “other.”
The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, 2016
As stated in the Charter for Racial Justice reintroduced by United Methodist Women and readopted by the 2016 General Conference, “racism robs all human beings of their wholeness and is used as a justification for social, economic and political exploitation.”
Our faith must be a prompt and a guide for how we engaged with urgency the work to end the punishing legacy of racism visible to all in the videotaped horrors of the past few days and hours.
United Methodist Women recommits itself and calls on the Church to promote the things that make for peace by working for justice, extolling mercy and building bridges between communities of color, law enforcement and the wider public.
United Methodist Women is the largest denominational faith organization for women, comprised of approximately 800,000 members who have put faith, hope and love into action on behalf of women, children and youth for nearly 150 years.