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Valley faithful pray for justice in Ferguson, Mo.

Published: Thu, August 21, 2014 @ 12:05 a.m.


Allan Irizarry-Graves of Youngstown prays with residents at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Youngstown on Wednesday night at a vigil for Ferguson, Mo., which is besieged by civil unrest after a police shooting of a black teen.

By Sean Barron



Mark Gavin recalled having returned home from work Monday evening to see the image of an armored vehicle on TV — and his 4-year-old son’s reaction to it.

“My son asked, ‘Why is the Army on TV?’ and I told him that it was the police,” the Warren man explained.

Gavin’s son, Mark Gavin Jr., was not watching war footage from another country. Instead, he was seeing news coverage of the continued unrest in Ferguson, Mo., in which protesters clashed with police, some of whom were in riot gear and backed up by military vehicles mounted with machine guns.

Gavin and his son were among an estimated 60 people who attended Wednesday’s Faith on the Move prayer vigil at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 707 Arlington St., on the North Side. The 45- minute gathering was one of 17 simultaneous vigils throughout the Mahoning Valley in which attendees called for justice in Ferguson and across the country.

The gatherings also are to begin a series of conversations to look at systematic and structural racism and injustice that many people of color face, organizers said.

Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, has been the scene of daily and nightly protests since Darren Wilson, 28, a white Ferguson police officer, shot to death Michael Brown, a black, unarmed 18-year-old.

Since the Aug. 9 fatal shooting, efforts have been underway to try to restore peace to the community amid what many see as an overly aggressive police response to protesters, the majority of whom are peaceful.

The local vigils also were to coincide with a 1,000-clergy march and peaceful rally at the Clayton, Mo., prosecutor’s office. Leading that effort was a national network of which the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative is an affiliate.

MVOC is an organization that has partnered with more than 100 neighborhood groups, faith-based entities, labor unions and nonprofit agencies in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. The collaborative works with residents and neighborhood leaders to address community concerns.

Gavin, an MVOC organizer, said he believes the shooting in Ferguson is symptomatic of the type of police brutality leveled mainly against minorities that occurs daily in the country.

“It seems to be open season on black men,” he explained. “I’m afraid for myself, my cousin, who’s 18, and my son in an environment where it’s easy to kill a black man.”

During the vigil, participants held hands in a large circle and prayed for the protesters, the Ferguson community, Brown’s family and law-abiding police officers. They also prayed on behalf of Youngstown and against racism and economic inequality.

One of those who called for justice in Ferguson was the Rev. Christopher McKee, Tabernacle’s pastor.

In addition, it’s important to pray and work for better relations between law-enforcement officers and their communities as well as increased civic participation in the democratic process, he said.

“We also want to pray that people are protected by their government, not victimized by it,” the Rev. Mr. McKee added.


1NoBS(2829 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Not one mention of any looting or other crimes being committed in Ferguson, yet plenty of allegations of cops being racist. Sorry, Vindy, you should have printed this story on the editorial page - it's unarguably an opinion piece.

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2walter_sobchak(2720 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Mr. Gavin may be concerned about the environment where he claims it is open season on black men in the USA but he needs to temper that with some facts. On average in the USA, there are about 12 million arrests every year and there are about 400 fatal police shootings on average, with the vast majority wholly justified. But, of all the black homicide victims, 91% are killed by other black men! Yeah, it's open season but the hunters are also the hunted.

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3borylie(951 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

I wonder if Sean Barron asked anybody at the vigil if they knew what the black community could do to improve race relations with the police and non-blacks.

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4redeye1(5664 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Mr. Gavin Maybe if your people would learn to respect the law officer instead of claiming that they cops are out to kill them. It's time for blacks to realize that they aren't a special group who think that they can do whatever they want without consequences . You see my parents taught me to respect all people and that includes police. If this wanna be thug had only listened he would still be alive today. So quit blaming the cops for his death. The thug had just robbed a store and he didn't want to go to jail. That is the whole story , plain and simple

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5borylie(951 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Tell the black leaders to watch Jonathan Gentry/You Tube. It could be a worth while 6 minutes and 18 seconds.

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6lace(5 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Beware smug posters above! You never know when you for your loved ones could be the victim of a cop's sense of invincibility and self-aggrandizement.
If you are wealthy and well-connected you may have a chance for justice...otherwise....

As per the comments of Louis Free on his program today - remember that Sandra Scheurer was just a young woman walking to class at Kent State. Yet a nation believed she was a dirty hippie commie that deserved her fate, never pausing to discern what was true or untrue from the media.
Her parents received hate-mail.
Mr. and Mrs. Scheurer never did get justice for the murder of their daughter.

Ferguson: My Thoughts on an American Flashpoint


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776Ytown(1366 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Things to consider when asking for justice:

Was Mr. Brown just in his actions at the liquor store? Was Mr. Brown just in his actions when he assaulted Officer Wilson? Was Mr. Brown just in his actions to return toward the officer?

Was Officer Wilson just in shooting Mr. Brown to stop him from causing more bodily harm.

Were the protesters just in looting the local shops? Is the community better off after the destruction of their shops.

How has the story change since it first happened.

Is Mr Brown an young, soon to be college bound man walking down the street minding his own business or was he a thug who just robbed a convenience store with drugs in his system and used his stature to taunt the officer? Was Officer Wilson a racist cop who stopped Mr. Brown and his friend only because they are black or was did he return to question a suspect in a robbery and shoot in fear of great bodily harm? Were the first 5 shots fired to stop Mr. Brown from getting away or were they an execution. Was there a rush to judgement to assume that because the officer was white Mr. Brown was an innocent victim?

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