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Chicago ministers call for calm in wake of Trayvon Martin verdict

A guest preacher  Rev. F. Bruce Williams senior pastor Bates Memorial Baptist Church Louisville Ky. prays for TrayvMartduring service

A guest preacher, the Rev. F. Bruce Williams, senior pastor of Bates Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., prays for Trayvon Martin during a service Sunday at Trinity United Church of Christ. He is wearing a hoodie in honor of the teen. | Nausheen Husain~Sun-Times

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Trinity United Church of Christ leaders lined the pulpit in hoodies for Sunday’s services, both in honor of Trayvon Martin’s family and in protest of the “not guilty” ruling for George Zimmerman over the weekend. Pastors urged peaceful protests, rather than angry riots. Since Saturday’s ruling, the country has seen both.

Six jurors found Zimmerman, a 29-year-old neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter Saturday after he went to trial for shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to death in February of 2012; the teen was wearing a hooded sweatshirt at the time. The fatal shooting and ensuing trial triggered a national conversation about civil rights and racial profiling.

Trinity United senior pastor, the Rev. Otis Moss III, sporting a gray Harvard sweatshirt, urged his congregation to respond to the ruling with courage. Behind him, church leaders at the pulpit wearing Yale Divinity School and Morehouse College hoodies, nodded and said “Amen” as he told his congregation how his son reacted to the verdict.

“As I held my son yesterday evening after the verdict, he said words that penetrated my soul and pierced my heart,” said Moss. “He said, ‘Daddy, am I next?’”

At the Greater St. John Bible Church in Oak Park, pastors came together for a news conference to remind congregations to exercise restraint and to assure their flocks that a response is being organized. The Rev. Ira Acree said that a national conference call for ministers and civil rights leaders from over 100 cities had been organized for Sunday night.

“The innocent blood of this teenager has power, and we will use it to turn our pain into power,” he said. “We will fight back, not with violence but with our voice.”

Acree, and other pastors present, mentioned that the community was “devastated” by the verdict and has expressed greater fear of gun violence after Illinois lawmakers passed legislation allowing people to carry concealed weapons.

“Now that we have this concealed carrying law, we’re wondering whether or not we will be profiled and if someone will be afraid because we don’t look like what they feel we should look like,” said Pastor Bernard Jakes from West Point Baptist Church in Douglas. “The verdict really sends a message that it’s okay to pursue, to hunt and to kill black men. It says that black life is of no value.”

Civil rights leader, the Rev. Jesse Jackson., said any violence would shift the sympathy from Martin to Zimmerman. He said the decision “is a pattern involving young African-American men that is too often repeating itself. In my opinion, the American legal system has once again failed justice.”

“I hope that no one will compound our pain with street justice. It will do damage to the innocent blood and legacy of Trayvon Martin,” Jackson said. “The struggle for fairness and justice is not over. Justice will come to those who continue to struggle for it.”

Contributing: AP



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