CLEVELAND — Demonstrations across the world against police brutality and systemic racism are not slowing down following the deaths of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police.
St. Aloysius Church in Cleveland is continuing the conversation about police brutality while honoring victims of police violence.
Every Sunday since George Floyd’s death, the church congregation has held a prayer service on the church’s front steps, observing a moment of silence to honor his life. Starting the week after, they began planting crosses marked with the names of Black people killed by police outside of the church - remembering their lives, praying for their families, and hoping for change.
“We can no longer tolerate and have a blind eye for the evil of racism,” said Gregory Clifford, a St. Aloysius parishioner.
“We have a mostly African-American parish and we felt that we had to say or do something and so this is what we decided to do,” said Charlotte Perkins, a pastoral council chairperson with St. Aloysius Church.
Each week, parishioners read the names of ten people, have a minute of silent prayer for each of them, and then walk to the front of the church parking lot to plant the crosses. Each cross bears the names of each victim as well as the cities where they died, including Cleveland.
“It’s a good feeling to know that we're doing something, we’re making a statement and placing their names on a cross brings that Christianity aspect into our beliefs that these deaths are wrong,” said Clifford.
In addition to their prayers, Clifford says members of the congregation are also planning on using their votes to usher in change.
“Vote for change is an important aspect of how we can put the right individuals into positions of power that are sensitive to the needs of the community and not polarizing us and separating us and causing division and strife,” said Clifford.
Perkins, who is also a former Cleveland police officer for 25 years, says its painful to see so much violence. She’s calling for more police training as well as more diversity.
“The police department should represent the African-Americans who are here, there should be more African-Americans on the police department, more minorities on the police department, so that people can feel comfortable because people don't feel comfortable,” said Perkins.
Right now, white males make up 59% of the city’s police department, while according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Black people make up 50% of the city’s population. At a Cleveland city council safety committee last week, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams says it will likely be another two years before the city fully meets the diversity hiring goals set under a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Leaders at St. Aloysius say they have a long list of names to write on crosses. They hope to continue planting them throughout the summer and even until Election Day.
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