RICHMOND, Va. -- As violence erupted on the streets of Baltimore Monday night, two churches in Richmond opened its doors to people concerned about what they see as rising tensions between law enforcement and the black community.
New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield, and Chicago Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, both hosted forums with local chapters of the NAACP.
The forums served as an opportunity for residents to voice their concerns over simmering tensions across the country, involving alleged police violence and profiling.
The latest incident in Baltimore, stems from the recent death of 25-year-old Freddy Gray. Gray died of a spinal cord injury while in the custody of Baltimore police, one week after his April 12 arrest on a weapons charge.
New Deliverance Minister Bryan Nevers says the church hosted the forum to facilitate an open dialogue between the community and law enforcement agencies. The pastor at New Deliverance, Bishop Gerald O. Glenn, is a former police officer.
“I think what’s happening, is you have a lot of pent of emotions and nobody is really speaking to the problem,” Nevers says. “You have a lot of people who don’t have the ability to voice their opinion and they’re acting out the wrong way.”
Similar sentiments were shared at Chicago Avenue Baptist Church, where a handful of faith leaders, citizens and former city council members came together.
L.J. McCoy, Jr., President of the Chesterfield Chapter of the NAACP, says leaders have made considerable progress with police departments across Richmond. He says several top-level police officials have met with the NAACP to discuss problems. While progress has been made, McCoy says several Richmonders feel that they’ve been victims of discrimination and that their voices aren’t being heard.
“We need to let the community know that they have a voice,” McCoy says. “They need to know where they can get that voice from.”