Community faith leaders gathered today along with Portland Police Chief Mike Marshman, Mayor Charlie Hales, and civil rights activists to respond to the tragic sniper attack that took place yesterday in Dallas, Texas, in which five officers were killed and seven were wounded.
Marshman seemed visibly moved as he spoke, and reiterated the sentiments of many of the speakers: “I believe the power of prayer works, and that’s how we’ll get through this.”
Both Wajdi Said of the Muslim Educational Trust and Hales addressed gun laws. “I’m really tired of seeing the flag at half-mast,” Hales said. “This is madness and it must stop. We must demand stricter regulations on guns in this city, state, and country.” Hales also promised that the Portland Police Department would continue to respond to disturbances with as little force as possible.
Several of the speakers, including Pastor J.W. Matt Hennessee of the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, commented on a march that began in Pioneer Courthouse Square yesterday evening to protest the much-publicized deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Hennessee commended the Portland Police force’s handling of the protest and urged demonstrators to speak out, but to do so through nonviolence. Chief Marshman also said that he “fully supported the protests,” and felt that they had gone well with the exception of one participant, who was charged with disorderly conduct after producing a firearm.
The bishop of the Kingdom Nation Church, Steven Holt, reminded those present that protesting is not enough: “Beyond rallies, beyond marches, beyond moments surrounding an emotional event, we have to think about a systemic, strategic, collective response that addresses the root of the issue. Things don’t change until we rise up and change them.”