“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools” – Martin Luther King Jr.
It is interesting how in the story of the Good Samaritan, the victim rescued and treated by the Samaritan is a crime victim. The underlying message cautions us against forming stereotypes about good people and bad people. It’s a powerful reminder of the transforming power of compassion.
Atlanta hosted an innovative approach to address the growing hostility between some citizens and Police Officers in the United States. The dialog was an endeavor to encourage mutual commitment to fostering positive relationships between Law Enforcement Officers and citizens.
This meeting and Solidarity March was sponsored by several leaders including Rev. Markel Hutchins, The IBPO, FOP, AFSCME, GA Association of Police Chief, NOBLE, NAACP, Power of Peace Project, Radio One of Atlanta, GA Sheriff’s Association and LULAC.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that..”
Several people attended the event, including those who had shown up to use this platform to advertise their personal agendas and create chaos. They were protesting about injustice but it was hard to hear them over all their shouting. It seemed that their only purpose to attend was to interrupt any effort attempted at an open dialog. As expected, the group created a lot of noise, very little impact with their protests and left when they were tired.
The path to progress is conciliatory – not shouting and protests. Consider how situations can be positively changed. Don’t get caught in illusions. You get further with firm positive appeals than with meaningless fights.
The panelists consisted of leaders from Law Enforcement and people striving to bring about social change. Several critical topics were addressed and it brought a lot of truth to the surface.
An officer shared about a time he had to pull the trigger to protect a victim and stop a young man from stabbing her. He found out later that the victim was a mother and it was her son who was trying to kill her. The son was arrested and and the mother thanked the officer on the day of sentencing.
It takes a lot of courage to pull the trigger on a person. Officers have the huge responsibility to respond to critical situations which demand lethal decisions. There have been instances when an officer could have handled a situation differently but believe this – no officer wants to jump out of his car and shoot someone randomly. Just like other citizens don’t want to be judged because of someone else’s crime history, officers ask that they are not judged and shot for another officer’s act. We have let stereotypes cloud our judgement. All lives matter!
In addition to the panelists, select families of fallen officers and citizens were featured.
A grandmother shared about the day she lost her grandson who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. He was a good boy and the day he was shot, he had gone out to meet his friends. He was shot by an officer at a crime scene. Her appeal to officers was simply to ask questions before pulling the trigger, to look at people as people instead of at their color.
She thanked people from all communities who had stood by her during that hard time. It was a struggle to forgive and it took more courage than she thought she had to make it to the stage to share her story. But she forgave the officer who had shot her grandson. She encouraged the audience to pray for Police Officers so that they can carry out their responsibilities well.
A father shared the story of his son who was a young Police Officer and was shot and killed by a young man. This young man had been first arrested when he was 13 years old. He was 19 when he shot the officer fatally. Later the young man confessed that he was determined not to go back to prison and had purposed to kill any officer who approached his car that day.
Lives matter. Not just when police kill someone but also the other way around. Officers have lives and families who love them just as deeply as other citizens love theirs.
This father shared about the night their son died – the terrible pain and struggle. But he and wife prayed that they would forgive the young man who had killed their son. They did and they experienced the transforming power of forgiveness.
It’s natural to be angry and raise one’s voice but don’t let it hinder you from experiencing the healing that forgiveness brings. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Only time will reveal the outcome of this Dialog and Solidarity March. But may we take time to pray for Police Officers and be thankful for their service. Build a better community through cohesive relationships and teach others to live in community. It will take all of us to bring about understanding and reconciliation.