Anti-Violence Rally Promotes Unity, Understanding

Post a Comment » Written on April 3rd, 2009     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

OAKLAND, CA (April 3, 2009) – Brian K. Woodson, pastor of Bay Area Christian Connection, an Evangelical Covenant Church, was one of the organizers of an anti-violence rally and vigil held Tuesday night in East Oakland.

Hundreds of people attended the “2 Chronicles 7:14 Rally” put together by a community pastors association to promote unity and understanding. Other Covenant pastors attended, including Paul Wilson, pastor of First Covenant Church, and Marco Ambriz, the congregation’s associate pastor.

“This shooting has hurt us all and we feel a great sense of loss and crisis in our city right now,” says Ambriz. “I can’t describe it, but you can ask just about any of us and we will tell you we feel something really painful and dark when we think about the violence we’ve suffered.”

Shooting’s impact: “An overwhelming sense of our need for God’s healing in our city.”

Racial tensions have long existed in Oakland and they were heightened earlier this year when a BART officer killed an African-American, Oscar Grant, while the man was on the ground, Woodson says. He hopes the rally will strengthen the call for mutual understanding.

The rally was held just blocks away from where four city police officers were shot to death. It drew attention to the suffering of the community and the families of the officers, as well as the family of the killer.

“In addition to the horrible tragedy that this has become for the families of the fallen officers and the family of the man who killed them, this shooting has greatly impacted our churches in Oakland with an overwhelming sense of our need for God’s healing in our city,” says Ambriz.

A relative of Lovelle Mixon, the man who killed the four Oakland officers, praised police for their service. “We extend our hand of love. We extend our hand of sympathy. We extend our hand of peace to you,” said Caroline Mixon, Lovelle’s second cousin.

“This family had just come from Mixon’s funeral, Ambriz says. “Their presence also was a reminder that the shooter’s family also was suffering pain. That was something we really needed to hear.”

“They work in the world where people will take your life for five dollars.”

Officer Mildred Oliver told the gathering the department welcomed the support. “I’m just touched by the number of pastors and parishioners that are here to come and support the community, and to come support the Oakland police officers in our hour of need.”

Woodson expressed concern, however, that in the wake of the shootings, Oakland officers might be extra nervous “the next time they pull over an African-American driving a car with 24-inch rims.” Fear of African-Americans “doesn’t bode well for our members.”

Woodson, whose father was a New York City police officer for 30 years, adds that any fear police might have while working in certain areas of the city is understandable. “They work in the world where people will take your life for five dollars.”

Pastors hope that the rally also was calling attention to social and legal systemic issues that can create conditions for violence. He notes that the percentage of African-Americans in prison far exceeds their percentage of the general population.

Woodson emphasized that “no amount of violence is justified” by systemic problems, but that the community and churches have an obligation to address them.

Ambriz says he believes God can redeem the tragedy. “There is something good that God has been doing among Christians in Oakland and our prayer is that we would be sensitive to his leading, relentless in speaking out against violence, and passionate about demonstrating the kingdom of God by living for Jesus.”

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