I took a very long walk today, from the District Armory to the Capitol Building and White House. There, about 1,000 D.C. church-goers gathered to lament the murder of George Floyd, to protest, and to pray among the monuments. I chose to join with the Faith+Works D.C. march today for a few reasons:
First, the deaths of unarmed black people at the hands of law enforcement officers are unjust and ongoing. Black Lives Matter. Extrajudicial killings must stop.
Second, the Christians of Washington D.C. are my people. I have a leadership role at my church on Capitol Hill and a responsibility to advocate for the congregation's well-being. I attend a diverse, majority-white church. We believe that when one member of our flock has a problem, we all have a problem (See Matthew 18:12-14). I carried hopes and fears for the children of color in my congregation as I passed monuments to abolition and the arts.
Third, I must speak out publicly against the tear-gassing of a peaceful crowd in Lafayette Square for the sake of a photo opp at St. John's church. Usually, I don't bring my spirituality out into the open on this blog. I prefer to focus on design ethics. But, usually, POTUS doesn't use chemical agents to disperse protesters so that he can waggle a Bible in front of a historic church. These are unusual times. I do not understand the religion that cheers or excuses this behavior.
Last, I wanted to participate so that I could share the experience. This is what I saw and felt:
We walked for a few hours, singing, waving signs with BLM slogans and bible verses. There was some chanting "DO JUSTICE...LOVE MERCY!" (See Micah 6:8). The chanting never got very loud. I have not had negative experiences with police. It was difficult to conjure passion in my rebuke against a justice system that has harmed others, but not me.
Our crowd was all wearing masks. Leaders removed them to lead singing and prayer through the megaphones. Churches and the NAACP handed out water and snacks in the sun.
I learned that the go-to songs of Faith+Works' black leaders were unfamiliar to me and most of the people in the crowd. The marshals led us with grace despite our ignorance.
Bicycle-police escorted us without incident. There were no rioters. Nothing was on fire.
The city was eerily empty, Several blocks were boarded-up. When we finally arrived at the White-house compound, it was wrapped in layers of chain-link fence and graffiti. I have never seen D.C. like this. At Black Lives Matter Plaza, we intersected with members of several other marches while singing "Amazing Grace." Our group was greeted with cameras and expressions of acceptance and confusion.
One march marshal led us in prayer and we dispersed.
* According to the Washington Post, Mitt Romney joined us as we walked past the monuments and Humvees on Pennsylvania Ave. I was unaware of this at the time. Articles have also referred to the marchers as "conservative evangelicals" a term that I wouldn't apply to myself.
* This article (from local news blog, DCist) reflects my experience of the march and provides a profile of one of the pastors that led it: https://dcist.com/story/20/06/08/hundreds-from-wards-7-and-8-join-faith-filled-march-to-the-capitol/