Baptist Ministers’ Union leads non-violent
march in Austin
The Baptist Ministers’ Union leaders
presented a list of concerns, demands and recommendations at a rally on the
steps in front of Austin City Hall Saturday, February 21, 2004 at Noon. Rev.
Sterling Lands, II, Pastor of the Greater Calvary Baptist Church and Chair
of the Community Action Task Force, a subcommittee of the Baptist Ministers’
Union stated, “We called for immediate action to address the unfair
treatment of Black Citizens of Austin on 27 January 2004. At that time we
called for action by the City government in three areas; the resignation of
the Austin City Manager, Toby Futrell; the resignation of Austin Police
Chief, Stan Knee and a complete revision to the City Charter that will
guarantee equal and equitable protection to Black Citizens of Austin under
just law”. He stated, “we pointed out that the history of the Austin City
Government is a history of repeated racial discrimination, unfair housing
practices, and police use of unnecessary force against Black citizens”. When
questioned about the city’s response Rev. Lands said, “As far as I know we
have not received any response from the city, not even a courtesy call
regarding our call for action. You would think that something of this
magnitude would call for a written response from city officials, but nothing
has been received that I am aware of.”
The Baptist Ministers’ Union presented a list of concerns, demands, and
recommendations in a public nonviolent demonstration in front of City Hall
to the Austin Community through a rally and press conference. None of the
City Council Members were presented including Mayor Will Wynn and lone Black
Council Member Danny Thomas.
A group of 600 to 800 people representing some 40 Churches met across from
the Austin Police Department and marched from I-35 west on 8th Street to
City Hall at 8th and Colorado Street. The march was started with a prayer
lead by Rev. Anthony Wright, Teen Pastor at the Greater Calvary Baptist
Church. They sang spiritual songs as they walked briskly up the hill. The
crowd was about 98% Black and 2% other with ages ranging from infants in
strollers to senior citizens. Some of the Black pastors with Church
memberships exceeding 1000 members were conspicuous by their absence.
The rally in front of City Hall started with a prayer lead by Rev. A. R.
Evans, Pastor of New Lincoln Baptist Church. The prayer was followed by
singing and then a message was preached by Rev. R. E. Carter, Pastor of the
Mt. Olive Baptist Church. Pastor Carter emphasized in his message taken from
Amos 5:24 that “we must register impropriety, reject imposters, and remove
impediments if justice is to run down as waters, and righteousness as a
mighty stream. The message was followed by more singing and a prayer lead by
rev. A. Hargrove, Pastor of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church.
The Rev. Joseph Parker, Pastor, David Chapel Baptist presented the Mission
Statement of the Community Action Task Force. He stated that, “the Community
Action Task Force was an ad hoc committee appointed by Pastor Ivie Rich,
President of the Baptist Ministers’ Union of Austin and Vicinity and that it
exist under the authority of the Baptist Ministers’ Union of Austin and
Rev. Parker stated the vision and mission of the task force, “to work to
bring about a character centered community of high integrity where people
are accepted and protected based on the content of their character and not
skin color using New Testament principles and practices”.
Rev. Parker brought a roar from the crowd when he stated that, “this is a
nonviolent demonstration to bring our concerns before the Mayor and City
Council and the Citizens of Austin, Texas”. He said, “we chose nonviolence
•It follows the example of CHRIST.
•It seeks to persuade the opponents that they are mistaken.
•It seeks to gain the opponent’s understanding and conversion.
•It uses direct action methods (demonstrations, etc.) as a means to awaken a
sense of moral and ethical conviction in the opponent.
•It seeks redemption and reconciliation instead of bitterness and chaos.
•It is not for cowards or self-seekers, it requires the willingness to
suffer without retaliating.
•GOD is on the side of truth and justice.
•It is based on the Love of GOD operating in the human heart.
•It is rooted in an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous,
unmotivated, groundless, creative, and not set in motion by any quality or
function of its object.
• It is sustained by love that is disinterested; loving not for one’s own
good, but for the good of another. It does not distinguish between worthy
and unworthy people or friends and enemies”.
He closed his presentation with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
"Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Injustice anywhere
is a threat to justice everywhere."
The Pastors presented a list of concerns that they said represented the
results of surveys that were used to get direct input from the people they
Rev. Ralph Daniels, Pastor of Zion Hill Baptist Church and member of the
Task Force, presented the list of concerns regarding law enforcement:
•Our police don’t care enough about the people in our community.
•We no longer feel safe to call or seek out the police. We fear them now.
•I think we are not being treated fair as Black people by APD.
•It is a scary situation for Black men in East Austin.
•Inexperienced officers in East Austin.
•There is a lack of caring police presence in the community.
•Shooting of Blacks in East Austin.
•Promotions of Black police officers.
•As a citizen, I feel that we as a Black race are being hunted down. It
seems that APD are aiming at East Austin. Then we are put in jail for life,
possibly for a crime that we may not have committed.
• I am afraid for my son’s life on the streets of Austin because of APD.
• All of the APD officers are not prejudice, but a hand full are and they
make it bad for the rest of APD.
• Same sex marriages, gay officers pushing the limits.
• As a citizen of Austin, Texas I am concerned as to how the
African-American race is being treated. Where is the justice? That is just
what it has come to (“JUST US” - )
Rev. Ricky Williams, Pastor of Greater Union Baptist Church, presented the
list of concerns regarding crime in the neighborhood:
• I would like it if the shooting would stop and the drugs everywhere.
• There is illegal Drug activity in the community.
• There is Prostitution in the community.
• Burglaries in the community.
• Car theft in the community.
• Abandoned cars on vacant lots and in front of houses.
• Trash and debris dumped on vacant lots.
•Boarded up houses and abandoned houses serve as a haven for drug users and
•My prayer is that Northeast Austin residents be treated as Northwest
residents. We need: City busing, Traffic lights, Better water systems. The
city dumping ground must be moved from our neighborhood.
•I would really like to see more services made available for the homeless to
help them have a place to live and teach them how to live in society.
•U-T parking should be held in a parking facility during seasonal games
instead of the local neighbor hoods.
Rev. Walter Jasper, Pastor of the Antioch Baptist Church and member of the
Task Force, presented the concerns regarding economic disparity:
•Black contractors and professionals do not get a fair share of city
•We need better access to Health Care. Blacks are treated as second class
citizens after waiting in long lines for treatment or care.
•Racial discrimination in the hiring and promotion of Black people in the
Austin Fire Department.
•Black citizens are suffering double digit unemployment in Austin.
•With all of the ongoing construction in Austin, why are there so few Blacks
•Black people have been shut out of the Mueller Airport development
•Gentrification in East Austin. Blacks are being displaced in the East
•Black people have no voice in the governance of the city. White people
choose Blacks who need their validation and assign them the role of leaders
in the Black community.
•Black and minority students are trailing behind White students in academic
performance in Austin.
The Pastors then presented a list of demands and recommendations.
Rev. Sterling Lands, II, Pastor of the Greater Calvary Baptist Church and
Chair of the Task Force presented the demands list:
•We demand an immediate end to APD’s use of unnecessary force and racial
•We demand equal protection under the constitution.
•We demand that the Justice Department conduct a complete thorough
investigation into the disproportion of Black deaths at the hand of APD not
just a review.
•We demand the establishment of a Police Oversight Commission that reports
directly to the Mayor and City Council. The commission should have
investigatory authority, subpoena authority and discipline authority.
•We demand drug free and crime free neighborhoods.
•We demand the elimination of racial discrimination at every level. Make it
illegal to discriminate against Black people in hiring, housing, health
•We demand economic justice. Fair share of all contracts let by the city
•We demand employment parity. Employment for the employable and training and
retraining for the unemployable
•We demand full participation at every decision making level within the City
•We demand that the Mayor, City Council and City Manager aggressively pursue
education excellence for all of the citizens of Austin. Raise the academic
standard and eliminate the academic performance gap that exists between
Black and White students. Restrict city funding to AISD if this requirement
is not met.
Rev. Ivie Rich, Pastor of the St. Luke Baptist Church and President of the
Baptist Ministers’ Union presented a list of recommendations that reflected
conversations that members of the Task force had with APD officers:
•Establish a state-of-the-art training program for police officers that is
ongoing and recurring and make it mandatory that all officers at every level
complete a minimum of 96 approved hours per year.
•Eliminate the barriers to hiring and firing police at every level who
violate the law or who disregard and violate department procedures.
•Do away with fixed shifts for police officers. Go to two or three month
•Police officer promotion should require a minimum of four years active duty
with good to excellent performance evaluations each year. Now a patrolman
can promote to a detective in two years. Change this to four or five years.
•Get back to basic police work; enforce traffic laws, investigating crimes,
patrolling the streets, etc.
•Eliminate excessive special units. Reinstated vice (prostitution, drugs,
•Increase the capacity of the patrol officer to do detective work.
•Patrol Sgt. should spend their time on the streets. Leave data entry by
civilians. Minimize acting in a reactionary mode.
Rev. Ivie Rich stated that, “we are not done yet, this is a beginning”. Rev.
Lands stated that “city officials contacting Black people in our community
that have historically been used to defeat the cause of justice in our
community will not undermine our call for action and redress. We believe
that it is in the best interest of the city of Austin to address these
issues with a sense of urgency.
At the conclusion of the rally the crowd marched back down 8th Street to the
assembly area across from the Austin Police Department. The crowd was
dismissed by prayer lead by Rev. Lee Yarbrough, Pastor of Mt. Pilgrim
Baptist Church and closing words from the organizers.