“There is never the right time to do the wrong thing.” -Police Officer and Pastor LaDarian Brown

by Joycelyne Fadojutimi

The theme of the recent prayer rally is found in Micah 6:8, which reads, “He has shown you, oh man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  In light of  the atrocious murder in Minneapolis, Minnesota this passage served the rally’s purpose.

 Though Minneapolis is distant from Longview, The Longview Clergy Coalition, the Longview Area Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the Longview Baptist Ministers’ Union, sundry and numerous concerned East Texans congregated at and around the Gregg County Courthouse to “pray together for justice” after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Houstonian George Floyd’s neck until Floyd suffocated. Multitudes have seen the video of the incident since it went viral on social media.

Minister Caleb Ray Coates of Longview HighRidge Church spoke for many.

            “I am a protector. I was born a protector. When something goes wrong, I step in to protect, sometimes at my own peril,” he said. “So, I got enraged when I watched the video of George Floyd.”

            Coates is one of many who cannot understand why the other police officers and bystanders failed to pull Chauvin off Floyd, who was clearly heard saying he could not breathe. Coates also wonders if the time has come for local pastors and citizens to do something in the light of this tragedy. After he corresponded with Reverend Tommy Daniels on Facebook, Coates sent emails to other pastors, spawning an initiative called, “Praying together for justice.”

            Additionally, Coates was impressed and pleased with the size of the gathering at Gregg County Courthouse, noting how there were more there than had attended the annual Day of Prayer, and the Thanksgiving Prayer Rally. Moreover, he was thrilled to see Hispanic brothers and sisters in Christ who came to support the rally.

            “I was really pleased to see Pastor Myra Morales and Pastor Diana Pittman with the radio station,” he said. “I was so happy to see our Hispanic brothers and sisters in the audience who came out to support and pray with us.”

            Pastor Tom McDaniels of Life Christian Bridge was first to respond to Coates’ summons, and spoke forcefully at the event. He, too, complimented the audience for attending.

            “We are thankful for the turnout, and God’s presence is evident,” he said.

            He read the statement of a police officer’s wife. Her words were a plea for healing on all sides. She fears this crime will lead to all peace officers being branded “bad cops.” She encouraged the event’s dedication to unity and a peaceful response to the killing.

            McDaniels pointed out how he and his brother pastors meet regularly to work on various projects and goals in the community. They will continue to do so to maintain the momentum brought on by this event. As a matter of fact, First Lutheran Church Pastor and president of the Clergy Coalition Jeff Borgwardt saw the courthouse gathering as a positive response to Floyd’s killing.

            “It was a meaningful place for all in our community to come together as a sign of unity and to support one another during a time of anger over what happened in Minneapolis,” he said.

            Borgwardt also pointed out how Longview Police Chief Mike Bishop and Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano were present, indicating local law enforcement  agencies’ support for this community function, and observed how the community support both Bishop and Cerliano. Hence, the community has not turned against the police and sheriff’s departments in its quest for justice.

            “The relationship of trust our clergy organizations have with law enforcement will allow a dialogue which can be preventative of these actions happening in Longview, Texas as well as an appropriate response if a situation does arise,” Borgwardt said.

            Other clergymen who spoke out for justice, protection and guidance included Lamar Jones (who welcomed the audience,) Donald Daniels (who sang,) Myra Morales (who offered a corporate prayer,) and J.D. Palmer (who cited the reason for the assembly.)

Following this further, police officer, and Pastor LaDarian Brown eloquently, and overpoweringly addressed the crowd. He noted the attendance of citizens who were shaken by Floyd’s murder. “I am grateful that over 75 people took time to stand together in solidarity for what is right.” More importantly, he thanked Caucasians who outnumbered minorities at the rally. Brown’s passionate and powerful speech put him on the path as a voice for the voiceless and a young poised leader speaking truth to power. Likewise, Pastor Patrick Johnson offered a prayer beseeching his listeners to search their hearts, humbly confess sins and ask God to cleanse each person so He can heal the land.  

            In like manner, after Borgwardt spoke on the true meaning of being a Christian, Reverend Eric Love of the Church on Purpose delivered powerful prayers seeking forgiveness, overcoming obstacles, and glorifying the Lord for his power and mercy. Last but not the least, NAACP president Winsel Coleman concluded the event with a word of thanks to attendees.

            It should be noted that many Christians have publicly condemned the horrific murder of Floyd. Thus, Jim Denison of the Denison Forum wrote in the Baptist Standard, “God hates racism. He hates prejudice. He hates it when we discriminate against each other. His Word demands we see each other as He sees us…children of the same father (Genesis 1:28,) members of the same human race (Genesis 3:20, Acts 17:26,) and each of us as equally valuable in the eyes of our Lord (Galatians 3:28.)”