Activists join law enforcement at Milford vigil for racial justice

By Noah Zucker
Posted 4/27/21

MILFORD — The parking lot of Mount Enon Baptist Church was abuzz Tuesday night as activists, a wide array of nondenominational and Christian worshippers and a few members of the Milford Police Department came together to stand against racial injustice.

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Activists join law enforcement at Milford vigil for racial justice

Posted

MILFORD — The parking lot of Mount Enon Baptist Church was abuzz Tuesday night as activists, a wide array of nondenominational and Christian worshippers and a few members of the Milford Police Department came together to stand against racial injustice.

The event — which featured speakers from groups like the NAACP, the United Way and the First State Community Action Agency — began with an emotive saxophone arrangement. Speakers kept that intensity through the rest of the evening.

“God, you’re our refuge and our strength,” said the Rev. Dr. Patricia Green, Mount Enon’s pastor.

“We come on behalf of the many whose lives have been cut short, the families that have suffered the tragedy of their loved ones being cut down in the streets,” she said.

“Yes, we come in lieu of the pandemic, but tonight, God, our focus is on the racial injustices and on the peace that has been disrupted by the many, many situations we’ve had to endure,” the Rev. Green said.

She noted that the victimization of unarmed Black people can be traced much further back than to a figure like Emmett Till, a 14-year-old who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, but that violence against and within the Black community is still prominent. The names of unarmed Black people killed by police in recent years were often mentioned by speakers.

“The war that we’re facing is not always one that’s in a foreign land or fought by sworn soldiers,” said Fleur McKendell, the president of NAACP’s Central Delaware branch.

“We’re fighting a war to obtain justice, equality and equity in our communities, in our criminal justice system, the educational system, the economic system, the political system, the housing system, the health care system and much more,” she said.

In some communities, unfortunately, the war is more literal, she said.

“I can’t in good conscience say I can stand before you and uplift the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who were unarmed people of color who lost their lives, without uplifting the names of Dazhmier Brooks of Dover or Maricruz Sanchez of Milford, who also lost their lives, ... not at the hands of police, but at the hands of people right here in our community,” Ms. McKendell said.

Both those young adults lost their lives to gun violence in recent weeks. Milford’s Mayor Archie Campbell had more to say on Ms. Sanchez’s death.

“She was driving. They were doing 100 miles an hour, and they shot her in the head,” the mayor said. He added that he had taught her during his time with the Milford School District.

“I had her from the sixth grade through high school, and she was only 19 or 20 years old. For a life to end so young is really bad,” Mayor Campbell said.

“We need to reach out to the youth in Milford and around the country,” he said. “These kids probably have bad homes. The gangs are like a home to them.”

Although the crowd at Tuesday’s event was certainly opposed to police brutality, it was not opposed to law enforcement. Milford Police Chief Kenneth Brown was invited to speak.

“None of us are perfect. We all know that. I think we’ve said that tonight. But as long as we’re all moving in the right direction, that’s all we can ask for,” the chief said. “I want to concentrate on some of the things we’ve done to evolve.”

That includes the implementation of high-tech body cameras and the addition of a new behavioral health unit to the department this year. The chief added that he has no patience for unprofessional cops.

“If they don’t meet the standard I have for them, they won’t be there,” he said. “We want professionals, and that’s what we have right now in Milford.”

When the chief completed his statements, the audience granted him a warm round of applause.

The Rev. Dr. R.J. Chandler of Transformation African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Newark, finished the night with a fiery prayer that also served as a call to action.

“I pray for safety over our police department,” he said. “Oh, God, they put their lives on the line every day. Nobody knows the struggle that they have to deal with. Nobody knows the horror and stress that they are under every day when they put their lives on the line.”

But he also hoped for change.

“I pray that our police department will be reformed. That we will learn what it means to be diverse. That there are hidden biases. That there are some issues that we all need to work out, where we can be respectful of one another in the name of Jesus,” the Rev. Chandler said.

He also made a call for unity.

“We are not the same, yet we are the same,” he said. “We all bleed red. We’ve got the same blood, and we’re all part of the human family. Oh, God, we’re all in this thing together.”