In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., dozens of activists braved frigid temperatures and biting winds, taking to the streets of Cleveland on the federal holiday marking his birthday, continuing his call for justice. Local clergy, including a United Church of Christ pastor, were part of the crowd protesting the deaths of people of color at the hands of police.
The Rev. Paul Hobson Sadler, pastor of Mt. Zion Congregational Church on the city’s east side, and part of a local faith group, United Pastors in Mission, helped plan the march. United Pastors in Mission is made up of more than 100 Cleveland-area pastors ministering to variety of Christian denominations and ethnicities.
"We felt that, it being Dr. King’s birthday, with all of the injustices that are before us as a nation we had to do our part to take a stand for justice in keeping with Dr. King’s commitment to justice," Sadler said.
On the 30th anniversary of the holiday to honor the civil rights leader assassinated in 1968, Cleveland faith leaders, marching with winds up to 30 mph whipping around, joined other activist groups in the city who have protested cases of police misconduct, including the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice by Cleveland police. A grand jury in December declined to indict the two officers involved in the death of the 12-year old black boy. That shooting and the grand jury’s non-indictment have sparked numerous protests that have remained peaceful, including Monday’s, when no arrests were made.
"Our hope is this will say to the community that we as pastors stand for justice and that we abhor injustices that resulted in tragic loss of life," Sadler said. "It’s a time of witness and for prayer, particularly for the families who suffered the loss of loved ones, and it’s timely because of the Martin Luther King holiday and for the city of Cleveland."
The Cleveland rally was one of dozens across the United States on Monday held to honor King’s legacy. Activists gathered at the South Carolina state capitol building, where, for the first time in 17 years, civil rights leaders gathered without the Confederate flag flying from a flagpole. People in Michigan spent the day in acts of service, delivering bottled water to residents of Flint, which is dealing with a drinking water crisis. In Texas, thousands took to the streets of San Antonio for one of the country’s largest marches, with an estimated 300,000 adults and children walking a nearly 3 mile route together.
United Pastors in Mission leaders expressed their thanks for the efforts of peaceful protesters around the country who have been on the front lines of rallies speaking out against police use of force against minorities. The downtown Cleveland rally began at the Justice Center, the location of the county prosecutor’s office, before the group made their way through the city with stops at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and Tower City, marchers chanting, "No justice, no peace!" and "Hands up, don't shoot!"
The march ended at Amistad Chapel UCC, the street-level congregation housed in the UCC’s national offices, with a prayer service for countless families who experienced the loss of someone to senseless violence.
"The fact we are concluding with a worship service is significant because of what the United Church of Christ represents in the struggle for equality for all people in this nation for so many years, all the way back to its beginnings," Sadler said. "It is not by accident and not by coincidence that we will finish at the Amistad Chapel. It is significant and important, and it is in solidarity with those families."
Photos via Facebook.