Religious leaders speak out amid protests and riots

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — After days of demonstrations across the country in response to the death of George Floyd, local religious leaders are speaking out and calling for peace.

Reverend Valentino McNeal, pastor of New Beginnings Christian Fellowship in Knoxville says the protests are a direct result of the anger, and sadness felt by black Americans across the country.

“Protest is the cry of the unheard. They have not heard that black people and brown people and poor people need freedom. They need justice and they need equality,” McNeal said.

Reverend Harold Middlebrook, a civil rights activist known for marching with the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., also speaking out, calling for peace.

“I am urging our community, maintain nonviolence. I’m not saying that we have to be accommodating or that we have to be subservient. We must keep pressing for our rights and for justice. But we don’t have to tear up our own city,” Middlebrook said.

Middlebrook also says he’s disappointed with the violent turn some of the demonstrations have taken.

“Like all of the deaths, New York, Florida, Georgia, Louisville, all over the country, Texas, it troubles me. But what troubles me most is that there are those who are using the legitimate protests and grievances that we have to create a whole new different atmosphere,” Middlebrook said.

Both leaders agreed that it is up to clergy to speak up and be the voice for the voiceless.

“We should be out there leading, meeting with the government officials, the business people, the health care providers, all of those, the power brokers of this society,” McNeal said.

“I think the clergy and I hope that not only the African American clergy, but those of the European American community will join in standing up and saying that what is going on is wrong,” Middlebrook said.

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