Oakland, CA – A handful of churches have announced that they have teamed up with the anti-police group Showing Up for Racial Justice, and that they would no longer contact law enforcement for help or to report law violations.
First Congregational Church of Oakland volunteer leader Nichola Torbett said that the church decided to “divest” from policing, because they believed law enforcement officers had unfairly targeted “black and brown bodies,” The Washington Post reported.
“Can this actually be reformed, when it was actually created for the unjust distribution of resources or to police black and brown bodies?” Torbett asked.
According to the Showing Up for Racial Justice website, the group aimed to “lift up alternative visions for community that are rooted in love, justice, and collective liberation.”
“White people of faith have a special responsibility to interrupt a process that seeks to mobilize our community against our neighbors of color,” the site read.
The website also included links for purchasing Black Lives Matter yard signs, banners, buttons, and decals.
“All proceeds go to Black Lives Matter,” the site proudly proclaimed.
It’t not clear who is actually getting the money, because “Black Lives Matter” is not a legal entity capable of receiving donations.
The project has recruited three additional congregations in the Bay Area, as well as one in Iowa City, The Washington Post reported.
The Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ has also launched a campaign to recruit additional churches to join the movement.
“It’s a big ask to invite us, as white folks, to think differently about what safety means,” United Church of Christ Reverend Anne Dunlap said.
Instead of calling police, the churches have begun training members of their congregations in de-escalation and self-defense tactics, so that they would be prepared to handle potentially dangerous situations on their own, The Washington Post reported.
But being based in California, they made it clear that self-defense didn’t involve the use of firearms.
“Our goal is to never call the police,” Torbett said, adding that none of the volunteers would ever be armed.
The movement’s leaders claimed they have not asked members of their congregations to forgo turning to law enforcement for matters outside the church, but said they hoped they would choose to do so, The Washington Post reported.
Dunlap said that resisting police was part of her obligation as a religious leader.
“You’re talking about state violence against communities. You have to speak up and take a stand about that,” she said. “There’s not a way to reform our way out of police violence but to dismantle policing as a system.”