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Why I went to McKinney and what I saw there

June 10, 2015

Last Sunday after church, I was scrolling through Twitter when I noticed the hashtag #McKinney. Not knowing what I would see, I clicked onto that now viral YouTube video.

You know what I saw:  a foul-mouthed white police officer chasing black teenagers in swim suits, pulling his gun at one point and forcing a girl’s face into the ground and climbing on top of her– behavior the McKinney police chief now acknowledges as “indefensible” and clearly “out of control.”

I am thankful to God that officer did not kill anyone. We would be having a far more troubling and sorrowful conversation today. As tensions escalated – mainly his –  who knows how close he came to opening fire on what was, at most – depending on whom you believe – not much more than an unauthorized pool party.

So, on Monday, I went to McKinney.

In order to explain why I went, I must also tell you how watching that video made me feel.  As a father, I felt physically sickened by the level of violence used on children, many of whom, it turns out, may not even have been involved in the incident that prompted police to arrive in force to the Craig Ranch subdivision where this all took place. And I wanted to cry for this community and for our country.

I could not sleep Sunday night, and I knew if there was a protest on Monday, I had to go. It is not my community, so it is not my place to tell them what I think should be done. But I just wanted to walk beside those parents who were feeling grief over what happened. And I remembered that Dr. King said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Just as I did not know what I would see when I first clicked on the YouTube video, I did not know what I would encounter at the protest march in McKinney.

What I saw was hundreds of people from different races, backgrounds and religions calling for justice and fair treatment for all of God’s children.  I saw protesters escorted safely and respectfully and without interference by McKinney police.  I heard speeches from people representing various groups and political perspectives with very different ideas about how to work for justice. Many voices were gathered at one large, diverse table.

I saw hundreds of marchers and only two counter-protesters, one of whom held a sign that said “I support the police!”  Many of the marchers would have agreed with that statement. They spoke of their frustration as taxpaying McKinney residents who would rather feel protected by police officers than fear them. One marcher held a large sign that said, “Lord, heal our nation.” Others said they are thankful for officers in their community – especially the two who grabbed at Eric Casebolt when he pointed his gun in a fit of rage. The protesters also expressed a deep and heartfelt connection to tragedies in Ferguson and Baltimore and other places where black lives have been shattered under the color of official authority.

The spirit in that rally Monday was positive, energetic, and it was not mean-spirited or ugly. Not from what I saw. I only recall one sign that made an offensive statement toward police. (By the way, it was held by a white person).  A group of young African-Americans near whom I was marching “self-policed” our group as we wound our way through the narrow streets of Craig Ranch. They sternly ordered marchers to stay off homeowners’ lawns and to stay either on the sidewalk or in the street!

I drove home that night with hope – though I also remain troubled. I am worried that the resignation of a single officer will lead officials to consider this a “solved” problem instead of engaging in real dialogue on race within their community.  I appreciate that a number of officers perhaps acted appropriately – at least one was an example who certainly shined by comparison.  But I wonder: Why didn’t officers forcibly detain Casebolt at the scene before this situation worsened? And what about the white civilian who is walking around aiding him in his abuse of children? Why would that man take part in promoting the indefensible actions of an out of control officer? Why would anyone? It occurs to me that  “supporting the police” is a dangerous mantra to follow if you mean support must come no matter what they do.

I wore my clerical collar to the march. A white, college-age man asked to take a photo of me with another pastor so he could show it to his mother – who is also an ordained minister but did not attend the protest with him. These young people, black and white, give me hope for the future.

march mug

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Barb Heptig permalink
    June 10, 2015 6:50 pm

    God bless you and thank you for doing this… barb, feral christian and free-lance minister to the homeless

  2. Bob Johnson permalink
    June 10, 2015 8:06 pm

    The officer may have made some mistakes, but the crime rate is going to spike because police officers will be afraid to police, especially in black parts of towns.

    • Herbert Jones permalink
      June 10, 2015 9:05 pm

      Courtesy, respect, and dignity is how you properly police a community. My grandfather did it for 40 years in white, black, and hispanic communities. Instilling fear will only cause an adverse reaction. Policing with courtesy and respect will help you gain the trust of the community.

    • Low permalink
      June 11, 2015 3:05 pm

      The crime rate won’t spike because the police are scared to hurt little children. It will decrease because the police will stop committing these crimes. Crime goes up when those who uphold the law are known to actually break it.

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