A new Black Lives Matter banner rose up outside of a historic D.C. church following last weekend’s protests in support of President Donald Trump, when the old banner was destroyed.
Messages of solidarity were accompanied by a demand for justice when regional faith leaders gathered at Asbury United Methodist Church to watch the new banner take its place.
Rev. Ianther Mills, senior pastor at the church, greeted participants from across the region as she told the crowd, “We are committed to continuing our stand for social justice and for racial justice.”
Mills thanked the people who have sent messages of support and offers to help pay for the new Black Lives Matter sign that was about to be unfurled. The previous one was torn down and burned by multiple groups, including the right-wing Proud Boys, at the rally supporting Trump.
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, leader of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, was also among the speakers.
Easterling said the church teaches that “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
So, she said, “We stand with Christ in loving our neighbors. Not just those neighbors who support us, not just those neighbors who are willing to engage in mission and ministry with us. Not just those neighbors who pray for and with us. No, that would be too easy.”
That love, Easterling said, would be extended to those who “resent, mistreat, malign and misjudge us.”
And she addressed those people directly as she continued, “We love you!” adding, “We love you enough to enlighten you to the fact that, in these United States of America, there are enough resources for all of us to live well and live free so you don’t have to be afraid.”
Rev. George C. Gilbert, of Holy Trinity Baptist Church, noted the comments and demonstrations of solidarity, but added, “Statements of solidarity are not enough. We were attacked. We stand, today, because we want swift justice. We want to know that folks will be held accountable.”
The D.C. police are investigating four cases of vandalism directed at churches, and they said they are investigating them as hate crimes.
Rev. Thomas Bowen, director of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of Religious Affairs, told the crowd outside the church, “We know that people who seek to come here to spread hate and sow division are wrong. So, as a community, we denounce them.”
Noting that a row of TV cameras had assembled to record the display of the new banner, Bowen said they were not assembled for a photo opportunity.
“We are not here to play, to dream or to drift,” Bowen said. “We’ve got work to do!”