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Gary protest calls for end to racism, and for liberty and justice for all
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Gary protest calls for end to racism, and for liberty and justice for all


GARY — Hundreds rallied at Gary City Hall Sunday to call for an end to systemic racism and police violence, and for liberty and justice for all.

The Baptist Ministers Conference of Gary and Vicinity, which represents more than 30 churches and 15,000 congregants in Northwest Indiana, convened the rally for change on the south steps of City Hall. Speakers called for a stop to police brutality, injustice, inequality and discrimination in front of a crowd of people wearing "I can't breathe" and "Black Lives Matter" T-shirts.

One of the pastors organizing the event called in the Sin City Deciples motorcycle club to provide security. An entire parking lot full of bikers stood by while motorcyclists stood guard on Broadway and around the crowd.

Several politicians spoke, including State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary.

"I would like to see my son not have to endure the prejudice of racism that my forefathers and myself is seen over the years," he said. "To all the young organizers, those that are protesting, you have the constitutional right to let your voice be heard. When we come, we come in peace. But one thing we have to understand is that we will not see progress if we do not do it together."

Melton said state lawmakers would ask for reforms, such as a ban on police using chokeholds.

"Don't let it stop here," he said. "Let it be an incidence of tragedy that brings us together so it never happens again."

Gary Mayor Jerome Prince said the country faces national problems with racism and police brutality. His administration will propose initiatives in the next few days. 

"This administration was the first administration to denounce the killing, and we called it a killing, of George Floyd," he said. "We denounced all brutal activity by all police officers across the country, particularly in the state of Indiana and absolutely in the city of Gary. ... We're prepared to engage. We're prepared to reform policy. We've taken the Obama pledge, which focuses on four areas of reform: reviewing policy, reform, engaging with all of you and finding ideas that work."

Democratic Congressional nominee Frank Mrvan called for unity at a time when the nation faces issues of race and justice.

"We're better together than we are divided," he said. "We've better together economically, and we are better together racially. My prayer for myself is when I examine my own soul is that I absolutely, positively recognize race. Very early on, I would say I don't see color. But for me to understand what you go through, I have to be able to say I see color. I embrace and understand that for me to be a better member of Congress I have to understand economic opportunity."

Pastor Dwight A. Gardner of Trinity Baptist Church said Gary churches were launching an "angry enough to vote" drive to register voters and get them to the polls.

"Our goal is to make every church that serves the community a center for voter registration and a resource to get those registered to the polls," he said. 

Gardner called upon churches across the state to stand with them to end the practice of systematic racism in the state of Indiana. A rally is planned at the state capitol in Indianapolis in July.

"We are not going away," he said. "We will not be silenced. Change is coming."

Gardner said he's been reciting the Pledge of Allegiance since he was a kid but has yet to see liberty and justice for all.

"It was written full of ideals," he said. "But it was written in and remains in a place that's full of hypocrisy. ... The promise of 40 acres and a mule had not been kept. The troops were pulled out of the south and a reign of terror both physical and legislative was unleashed on Americans of African descent."

Africans Americans have suffered lynchings and murders for centuries with no protections under the law, including the burning of black churches and "Black Wall Street" in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Gardner said. They have been killed without consequence and faced obstacles to voting like poll taxes and counting beans in a jar, he said.

"In the 1950s, the phrase 'one nation under God' was was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. It too is a lofty goal," he said. "But since the murder of George Floyd the white evangelical community, particularly on the national level, has sat silent or said more about law and order than about mercy. But that's not new either. We learned so long ago that the God of the oppressed and the God of the oppressor are not the same, even if we call them by the same name." 

Gardner said people could still work together for progress.

"We will be satisfied when we receive what American has promised," he said. "We have pledged our allegiance, shed our blood, been the beasts of burden that made you rich. We have done our part. It's time for American to do its part. We will be satisfied when America keeps its promise and there really is liberty and justice for all."

Collection: The Region responds to the death of George Floyd

Collection: The Region responds to the death of George Floyd

Following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, organizers throughout multiple municipalities in the Region joined with others in rallying against systemic racism.

View stories, photo galleries and videos reported by staff and correspondents from multiple days of protest coverage.

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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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