Friday, September 11, 2009

The police, the pulpit and pallbearers (Rockford, IL)

Open Letter from Rev. Theresa A. Dear

Dear Civic and NAACP supporters,

Rockford, Illinois has experienced one of the most egregious and outrageous violations of civil and human rights by police officers. The situation and events according to witnesses are as follows;

The police were called with allegations of domestic violence against Mark Anthony Barmore. Mark Anthony was a 23 year old African American male. He was standing outside his church, Kingdom Authority International Ministries (an African American church) when he saw two police officers (Stan North and Oda Poole - both Caucasian)) approaching. Upon their approach, Mark ran inside the church. Without a warrant, the police officers followed Mark inside the church with guns drawn. Mark ran to the day care area of the church where many children (ages 3-10) were present. The police followed him with guns still drawn. Mark ran into a small boiler room, the size of a broom closet, with only one exit. The police stood outside the boiler room with guns drawn toward the door demanding Mark to come out. Mark slowly exited the boiler room, unarmed with his hands up. The policed proceeded to shoot him which was witnessed by the children and others. While Mark lied face down on the floor of the church's daycare, the police shot him three more times in the back.

After the shooting, the police officers took the little children in a room -one by one - and tried to convince them of why they shot Mark. They also took the Pastor's wife (Mrs. Shelia Brown), who is the Executive Director of the daycare and their daughter to the police station and questioned each of them in separate rooms for 5-6 hours without counsel present. The police threatened the daughter (17 yrs. old) that if she did not change her story, she was going to jail. She did not change her story.

Since the shooting, hundreds of hate-filled emails have been written with sentiments such as Mark "got what he deserved" and "niggers" need to leave town and that the police were just doing their job. There is also a local radio station that continues to promote an atmosphere of division, racism and hatred. The community affairs department of the Department of Justice is involved and a confidential pre-strategy meeting was held last Friday. However, we are requesting a criminal investigation from the DOJ.

Officer Oda Poole has a history of shooting unarmed African American males. Prior to shooting Mark Anthony, he shot 3 African American males in Rockford, Illinois. Additionally, officers have been using intimidation tactics against the witnesses such as sitting outside their home, calling repeatedly for statements and slowly driving by and around their home.

The church - a place of salvation for sinners, a safe haven for immigrants and a sanctuary for safety was dishonored and desecrated. What message does this sacrilegious breach send to pastors and pulpits around the country? What kind of psychological imprint has this tragedy made on the children?

On September 3rd, pallbearers carried the casket of Mark Anthony Barmore at Greenwood Cemetery. Now we must carry the fight for justice to Rockford, Illinois.

We need you to help us respond to this assault on our church and our children and seek justice for the death of Mark Anthony Barmore. Please plan to unite with the Rockford Branch, NAACP and the Illinois State Conference on October 3rd at 1:00 p.m at the Discovery Center - 711 North main Street, Rockford, IL 61103 in a national march for justice.

Ben Jealous, National President of the NAACP and other national leaders will be present. We need MASSIVE support from clergy of all denominations. We need buses and vans of marchers from your church and community to join us on October 3rd.

Please send your people and your prayers to support our efforts. Please forward this email to your distribution list.

With many thanks and blessings,

Rev. Theresa A. Dear

Member, National Board of Directors, NAACP
(Elected from Illinois - Representing Region 3)
Associate Minister, DuPage AME Church

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