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Community copes through prayer

Facilities worker Vernon Coleman rides by a sign held by a student that says, "#Black Lives Matter". The sign was part of the prayer vigil in response to the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice. | Aaron Fooks/THE CHIMES


A blue mail cart slowly inched by the Bell Tower so that its driver, a middle-aged black man named Vernon Coleman, could hear as much as possible of the speeches and prayers before returning to his route. If he was on his lunch break he would be there, but now he keeps driving.

Around thirty students, faculty and staff gathered in the center of campus at noon on Monday, Dec. 8 to hold a prayer vigil in response to the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice. Various speakers took the microphone to share their own experiences with race and, after prayer, the group ended the hour by singing “Amazing Grace.”

Some of the students in attendance found their thoughts were overwhelming, but also shared a sense of optimism.

“There’s sadness, but there’s hope. There’s a long way to go, but I think that we can do it,” said Zania Kennedy, senior humanities major.


Students, faculty and staff respond to the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice with prayer and discussion at the Bell Tower. | Aaron Fooks/THE CHIMES

In addition to hope, the students gathered under the Bell Tower also felt a sense of responsibility for a type of response. 

“I believe that God has put a burden on our hearts to seek the justice that he wants, which would be to go out and advocate for this cause, to let other people know that something is wrong here and we can’t let it be. We as Christians have to be the best example of what it means to have good ethnic relations,” said Brian Glaze, junior biblical studies major.

Seniors Fevan McNichols and Brandon Mancini console each other as people pray for racial reconciliation. | Aaron Fooks/THE CHIMES

The issue of racism has presented itself in the last couple months more than ever before for some students. Junior intercultural studies major Jenny Rulison desires to empathize with those impacted by the situation.

“As a middle class white girl, I want to identify with people who have gone through more than I have. I want them to know that I care and that I feel for them. I want to enter into their pain and really love them as God loves them,” Rulison said.


Your Turn.  Post a Comment

  1. Steve Smith

    I understand the problem of one dying, and being taken, and the Eric Garner definitely poses some serious problems, but one thing resonates in all of these cases, and that these three people did not obey the commands (which were not unreasonable) of the police officers in question, and two of them physically resisted arrest. So is everyone praying that people will stop making bad choices that put themselves in harms way regarding the police, or are they siding with criminal activity? December 12, 2014

  2. Brandon

    Steve Smith you are blind to the issue here. By your logic, someone who resists arrest deserves death. If you find yourself on the wrong side of the law and you resist even mildly would you expect a cop to KILL you? December 13, 2014

  3. Jason

    Brandon, I hear what you're saying. But Steve makes a good point. We should be careful in jumping to conclusions to the "right side." I don't believe it is as clear cut as everyone tries to make it out to be. I don't think it is as simple as: you do something wrong and a police officer kills you. After careful consideration, that just doesn't seem to be the case here. That seems to be overreaching and too grandiose of a statement. I'll address some thoughts on this in the following cases.

    By assessing the evidence, it was clear that in the Michael Brown case, there is overwhelming evidence in support of the officer's right to defend himself by Law. Now, ideally the officer, if he responded perfectly to the situation, it would be possible that the officer could restrain, instead of kill the young man. That is truly sad, yet the evidence does support that Michael was the aggressor. Its hard to respond perfectly to a situation when you are fearing for your life. Now, no matter how you look at it, the loss of Michael Brown is truly sad and I never want to belittle that. A loss of any human life is tragic and mourning is the proper response. I will say though, that I believe this is the wrong case to jump on and crucify this officer.

    Now in Eric Garner's case I definitely believe there is a case to protest and address the issue. This case needs to be heard and the evidence definitely supports our need to seek real accountability. Eric Garner should never have been put in a choke hold. That "move" has been illegal and band and there should be definite ramifications for that officer and the EMT's actions. Reports show that the EMT's failed to administer proper care to Eric and this should be taken into account. Yes, there is an argument that Eric was in poor health, had preexisting conditions, and died due to heart failure and not suffocation as previously asserted. HOWEVER, that is absolutely NO excuse for what the officer did which LED to the resulting heart failure of Eric Gardner. Now to step back a bit, I honestly don't think the officer thought to himself "oh I'm going to kill this man for resisting arrest." I genuinely believe he intended to restrain him. That being said, after watching the video and reading the evidence many times, the way the officer went about it and the aggression the officer took is inexcusable. I think at the root of the officer's actions was pride AND THAT needs to be addressed. As Erica Garner said

    "Garner told Lemon. "It was about the officers PRIDE. It was about my father being 6'4", 350 pounds. And he wanted to be, you know, the top cop that brings this big man down. because he is just big. I mean, my father wasn't even doing anything.'"

    I think this was about pride, and even if it was a mistake, the officer ought to take responsibility for his actions and be held accountable.

    December 13, 2014

  4. Jason

    In closing, I believe there is a real reason to be upset, to mourn, and to desire reform. There is something wrong, and to deny that is plain ignoring the facts. That being said, I don't believe it is as cut and dry as some have asserted; that if you resist cops even mildly the officer will kill you. None of these cases seemed to suggest that the primary motivation was to kill the men. But there is DEFINITELY a reason to address the the problem of PRIDE and the lack of accountability in unnecessary risk taking by officers.

    I don't think life is as black and white as many make it out to be. I believe there is a lot of grey area in the world. Humans are messy and that naturally leads to messy situations. My only hope is that we do everything in our power to be as objective as possible to search out and solve the issues at hand, while prioritizing compassion in how we handle the situation and care for everyone affected by these tragedies. The balance is hard. December 13, 2014

  5. jerry lewis

    Steve Smith
    "so everyone..."
    plz don't presume to speak for everyone December 14, 2014

  6. please jerry

    If you're gonna comment then please learn how to read and quote accurately. Steve Smith didn't write "so everyone" he wrote "So is everyone..." implying that he is now asking a question. Reading comprehension is important December 15, 2014

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