Detroit minister says black men are ‘being targeted’

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

Detroit religious and community leaders called Friday for citizens to take a stand against police brutality, saying black men are being targeted.

The Rev. Charles E. Williams II, pastor of Historic King Solomon Church and state president of the National Action Network, was joined by group members during a news conference at the church to address the police killings this week of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota and Thursday night’s sniper attack that killed five Dallas police officers.

“The ranging acts of violence must end. The injustice and ignorance continues to grow because our black males are being targeted,” Williams said. “We are calling on our community residents to stand up to the police to end these heinous crimes.”

The Dallas officers were among 12 shot during a protest of the killings Wednesday night of school cafeteria supervisor Philando Castile near St. Paul and Tuesday of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge.

“I’m not surprised by what is happening out here,” said Sam Riddle, local activist for NAN. “Our lives are not valued and the USA is ashamed to admit that there is problem with our justice system.”

The National Action Network is holding a rally Saturday morning for police and city residents, urging them to solve problems in the city.

“We are not against the police. We are against rogue cops and bad policing policies. We want good cops to speak up against brutality and do their job,” Williams said. “The only way to do that is to hold everyone accountable, including, Police Chief (James) Craig, who needs to have more sympathy for the victims of police brutality and not just give blind statements.”

Rushanna Long of Detroit, an active member of NAN, said the portrayal of blacks in the media is causing the increase in violence.

“Black males, especially, are seen as a threat in the community. What people may see in movies or television is not who we are. All black people are not bad and not all police officers are bad,” she said. “With everything that has unfolded in the past few years, people need to find a table or create their own, so we can sit down and decide what we can do to move forward as whole.”

Williams and others at the news conference addressed fears of a possible police shooting in Detroit. He urged witnesses to document law enforcement encounters whenever possible.

“I’m confident that if the community comes together, we won’t see any type of police brutality like that here,” Williams said. “The best thing that people can continue to do is to keep recording, keep posting videos to Facebook and Periscope as much as possible. Technology changes things and as long as we have that, it will be easier for law enforcement to be held accountable.”

Freda George of Detroit hung around after the rally to speak with religious leaders and other city residents.

“I came out today because these things should not be happening in the 21st century and I want to help with bringing the city and law enforcement together,” George said. “This is not just for black people, it’s going to take all people to work together on this issue.”

ksmith3@detroitnews.com