Speaking to a small crowd on Union Square Saturday morning, the Rev. Reggie Longcrier reflected on the time he was put in a chokehold by a police officer.
Longcrier said he was involved in criminal activity before he entered the ministry. He recalled screaming that he could not breathe.
However, the strongest memory of that moment for Longcrier was the faces of the “wide-eyed, startled children” who witnessed him being put in the hold. He wondered how the trauma may have affected those children, how witnessing brutality might have led some to express their rage through actions like looting or destroying buildings.
Longcrier spoke about the anxiety Black Americans feel because of the ever-present threat of violence and the longtime experience of seeing violence against Black Americans going unpunished.
He detailed the long history of violence against Black Americans from Emmett Till in the 1950s to Rodney King in the 1990s and George Floyd in the present day.
“We live in a constant state of terror,” Longcrier said. “Day by day, memory is survival. We’re constantly looking over our shoulders, wondering where the next shoe is going to drop. Will it be with my family?”
Longcrier’s remarks were part of the Greater Hickory Ministerial Alliance event addressing racism and police brutality.
He was one of four pastors to speak at the event. Pastors David Roberts II, Antonio Logan and Cassandra Rawls also spoke. A crowd of a little more than 30 people gathered to listen to the pastors.
Their remarks focused on topics ranging from the necessity of fighting injustice to committing to ensure all people receive humane and fair treatment. They also expressed appreciation for the Hickory Police Department. Longcrier compared the relationship with the police to being like firemen with a system in place to respond if problems arise.
Mayor Hank Guess was in attendance and spoke at the end of the event, expressing gratitude for having the pastors as partners working together in the community.
Guess, a former police officer, also touched on the topic of misconduct by police and other leaders. “I know that there are police officers, there’s people in the ministry … we have people in all walks of life who don’t do the right thing and who have situations and do things that they shouldn’t do,” Guess said. “But I also know that the rest of us outnumber them and I thank God for that.”
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