As a way to mourn the recent death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer and to kick-start a series of meetings to address racism, a group of area pastors is hosting a prayer vigil Tuesday from 6-7 p.m. in the parking lot of First Missionary Baptist Church on Natchez Street in Franklin.
The event, titled Jesus and Justice Candlelight Prayer Vigil, was organized just a few days after Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed on Memorial Day by a white Minneapolis police offer named Derek Chauvin. The incident, which was caught on video and showed Chauvin strangling Floyd with his knee to his neck for several minutes as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe, sparked a number of protests across the country as well as riots in many locations, including in Nashville Saturday night.
Organizers are hoping the vigil will help to calm tensions while also bringing a diverse community together for a greater understanding of the issue of police brutality against black citizens.
“We want this to show that we are one,” said Pastor Walter Simmons of Empowerment Community Church, the main organizer. “We want to stand together in this season of the world, especially in our country, our community and city, that we all stand in solidarity against any kind of injustice.
“We want it known that we are all in this together and that we need each other’s help.”
The vigil is not only for grieving the loss of Floyd, but also for other black people who have been killed recently by police officers, including Tony McDade, a transgender man who was killed by a Tallahassee police officer on May 27; Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police officers on March 13 this year; and Ahmaud Marquez Arbery, who was shot and killed near Brunswick, Georgia, while jogging on Feb. 23.
“There will be moments of remembrance, not only of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, but of others who have met a similar fate as unarmed African Americans being killed at the hands of law enforcement,” said Strong Tower Bible Church Senior Pastor Chris Williamson, also one of the vigil’s organizers. “It will be a moment to lament this, to feel this pain, and to hopefully, healthily let this pain out.
“And then there will be calls to justice, and beginning to rally people for meetings afterwards when we start talking about practical steps and things we can do in order to see structural change in matters.
“And, of course, there will be prayer.”
Attendees can bring their own chairs, and are asked to practice social distancing by keeping six feet apart from each other and wearing a mask or face covering.
“I think it will be encouraging to people on a lot of levels,” Williamson said. “There will not be anything to condemn anybody. That’s not who we are. That’s not beneficial. It’s really to cry out together, to grieve together. We’ll see where the Lord takes it from there.”