Lord God, during this Lenten season, teach us to come before you in humility, lamenting the signs that your kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. Help us to acknowledge our finitude and failings, and guide us into a journey of remembering rightly, repenting honestly, and responding faithfully. We long for the coming of your mosaic kingdom in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and invite your Holy Spirit to lead us now.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY: MARCH 16, 2015
DOJ & City of Ferguson, Missouri, resolve lawsuit
On March 16, 2015, the U.S. Justice Department and the City of Ferguson, Missouri, agreed to a jointly filed agreement resolving the DOJ’s pending lawsuit against Ferguson (the agreement was made March 16th, and announced on the 17th). The court-enforceable decree aimed to remedy the unconstitutional law enforcement conduct that the Justice Department found during its civil pattern-or-practice investigation into the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) and the Ferguson Municipal Court.
In this scathing report released on March 4th, the Justice Department concluded that the Ferguson Police Department had been routinely violating the constitutional rights of its black residents. According to the report, bias against African-Americans was routine and thorough, affecting “nearly every aspect of Ferguson police and court operations.” For blacks, the report concluded, distrust and fear of the police was well-founded.
Examples Cited by the Report:
- Several police and court employees expressed racist views in emails and interviews. Messages between Ferguson officials compared African-Americans to chimpanzees and characterized a black woman’s abortion as an effective crime-stopping tool.
- Routine interactions between officers and black residents quickly escalated. In 2012, for example, an officer patted down a black man whose car appeared to violate a city code on window tinting. The man was ultimately arrested on eight offenses, including “making a false declaration” by giving his nickname instead of the name on his license. Over the course of the arrest, the officer accused him of being a pedophile, asked to search his car without cause and reportedly held a gun to his head.
- The Ferguson Police Department used tasers and dogs in excess on black suspects. In 2013, one man was chased down and bitten by an officer’s dog even though the officer had frisked him and knew the man was unarmed. The officer’s supervisor later justified the use of force with a patently untrue statement, suggesting that the officer feared “that the subject was armed.”
- Police and court officials focused on making money rather than ensuring public safety. The city of Ferguson budgeted for large increases in municipal fines and court fees each year, putting pressure on the police and court officials to meet their targets through excessive ticketing and citations of Ferguson residents. Ferguson’s municipal court fine collections accounted for 20% of the city’s total operating revenue, and saw an 80% increase between 2012-2014.
All of these patterns in Ferguson’s oversight and policing created a backdrop for the unrest and uprisings which occurred after the killing of Michael Brown, and continue to impact community relations and public safety today.
SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: ISAIAH 1:2-6
“Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!
For the Lord has spoken:
“I reared children and brought them up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows its master,
the donkey its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.”
4 Woe to the sinful nation,
a people whose guilt is great,
a brood of evildoers,
children given to corruption!
They have forsaken the Lord;
they have spurned the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him.
5 Why should you be beaten anymore?
Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
6 From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
or soothed with olive oil.”
RESPONSE OF LAMENT AND CONFESSION: Please spend some time in personal response, crying out to God with prayers, poems, songs, or art that expresses your lament and confession. If you feel led, please share these responses with others, using #lentenlament #day11
You may close with the following:
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
CLOSING PRAYER: STIR THE WATERS (2014)
“Agitate the sleepers of our world,
who would rather justify injustice than fight against it.
And give your people
—your young warriors
and crying mothers
and broken fathers
—the courage to accept nothing less than life.
Help us to stand for truth, justice and righteousness.
Give us courage to make our witness against injustice in deep and abiding love.”
-From “A Collective Prayer for Ferguson,” prayers collected by Rev. Renita from people in the Ferguson area