‘A champion for justice’

South L.A. pastors speak out in support of Maxine Waters

By Ray Richardson

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — Calling her “a champion for justice,” a group of South Los Angeles pastors gathered at the City Club on April 27 to express support for U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters and a police reform bill introduced to the California Legislature by state Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena.

Waters recently drew criticism from Republicans and right-wing media for her “confrontational” comments at a protest rally two weeks ago in Brooklyn Center, Minn., after Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man, was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop.

“Congresswoman Waters is a champion for justice,” said Shane Scott, pastor at Macedonia Baptist Church in Watts and one of the organizers of the press conference. “What she said was right. We’re not going to let folks beat up on her. She was speaking truth to power.”

“As Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ friend, we commend her fierce defense of liberty and justice for all,” the pastors said in a statement they issued prior to the press conference. We, and other religious leaders, stand for her, as she continues to push for justice and accountability.

“The pendulum in American history is swinging. This pendulum of the new majority of like-minded people who have come together, have set into motion meaningful change that will last for centuries to come in America if we continue to fight.

“ … We cannot continue to suffer at the hands of those who are sworn to serve and to protect us.”

Several Republicans threatened to call for Waters to be censured by Congress after she said “we need to become more confrontational” if former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was not found guilty for the murder of George Floyd.

Scott was joined by several senior pastors at the press conference, including Craig Worsham, of the Agape Church of Los Angeles; J. Edgar Boyd, First AME Church; John Edward Cager III, Ward AME Church; K.W. Tulloss, Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church; and Najuma Smith-Pollard, program manager at the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement.

The group called for legislators to “come to the table and have a conversation” to help establish meaningful police reform.

Scott said the group has endorsed Bradford’s bill, known as Senate Bill 2. The bill is awaiting a final vote for approval.

Among the components in Bradford’s bill is better training for police and the elimination of “qualified immunity,” a provision that helps police officers and government employees avoid civil lawsuits. The bill also is proposing that police officers with a history of misconduct not be permitted to work for departments in other cities.

“If last year’s nationwide summer protests and calls for police reform have shown us anything, it is that Californians want more than just superficial change,” Bradford said to CapRadio, a nonprofit news organization that covers the California Legislature in Sacramento. “We don’t want to just talk about it.”

During the press conference, the pastors also discussed homelessness, economic injustices, rising crime and the controversial debate of defunding the police.

Community leaders around the country have been pushing for police budgets to shift resources to mental health programs and other initiatives that can help ease tensions between police and African-Americans.

“We’re not a proponent of getting rid of the police,” Scott said. “We want the system changed. Let’s do what’s necessary to rebuild the system.”

Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave. He can be reached at rayrich55@gmail.com.