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June 03, 2020

Philadelphia clergy call for racial justice in wake of George Floyd killing

Religious leaders respond to ongoing civil unrest

Religion Racial Justice
church letter george floyd Natalie Hope McDonald/For PhillyVoice

Philadelphia religious leaders have signed a pair of letters calling for racial justice following the police killing of George Floyd. Above, a protest earlier this week in the city.

Hundreds of religious leaders are calling on City Council to take deliberate actions aimed at bringing racial justice to Philadelphia's black communities.

The interfaith group is urging council to reject any budget proposal that increases police spending while reducing funding to critical community services, among other requests. The current budget proposal boosts police spending by nearly $23 million while slashing funding to virtually every other city department. 

Calling itself "The Clergy Coalition of the Unheard," the group outlined its requests in a letter signed by various religious leaders in the Philly region. 

"We are mindful that the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called riots the language of the unheard," the letter says. "But, Dr. King went a step further and suggested that we ask ourselves this question: What is it that the unheard are saying?"

The group called on council to stand against the potential rehiring of 13 police officers who were fired for posting racist, Islamophobic and misogynistic comments on social media and allocate funding to the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, a group conducting diagnostic testing and contact tracing in black communities heavily impacted by the coronavirus. 

Two of the group's demands were essentially met not long after the letter was sent. 

The Frank Rizzo statue was removed from Thomas Paine Plaza. The clergy also asked city council to demand three additional Minneapolis police officers to be charged in the killing of George Floyd. Minnesota prosecutors did so Wednesday and upped the murder charge against Derek Chauvin, the officer who kneeled on Floyd's neck. 

The letter was spearheaded by POWER, a coalition of about 50 Philadelphia congregations seeking racial justice.

Another religious group, Interfaith Philadelphia, also released a letter mourning Floyd's death and denouncing the actions of Chauvin. It called on politicians, business leaders and the news media to join efforts "that lead away from polarization and towards a unity of purpose that fosters a shared future."

Archbishop Nelson Perez and former Mayor Wilson Goode joined about two dozen leaders of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths in the signing the letter.

"We support non-violent action to reform structural and systemic impediments to justice and equity, while unequivocally condemning violence and the destruction of property," the letter says. 

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