Clergy, leaders pray for unity
By ANNE EASKER
Clergy, law enforcement, and county and city officials gathered outside the Charlotte County Justice Center Wednesday to pray for unity, equality, and against racial injustice. Rev. Louis Anderson, president of the NAACP, started off by saying that “all lives matter.”
“It doesn’t matter who you are or what geographic location you live in,” he said. “You matter. And that’s the most important thing we could digest at this time.”
Commissioner Bill Truex told the crowd Charlotte County can set a positive example for the world by coming together as a community and judging others only by the content of their character.
“You might feel that you should be colorblind and that would assist you from being racist or bigoted toward another person,” he said. “In fact, we all need to see the color of skin as it will assist us in understanding the potential challenges that one may be facing or the past they may be carrying on their shoulders. We should see color but not judge by it.”
Truex said he will never know what it’s like to be black in America, but he can learn by listening to those who can help him understand the challenges and concerns they go through.
“I can affect change on their behalf,” he said.
Punta Gorda Mayor Nancy Prafke and Vice Mayor Lynne Matthews presented a proclamation to Rev. Anderson, declaring it a day of solidarity.
SEE UNITY, 4A
Charlotte County Commissioner Bill Truex urged the crowd to see color and listen to understand others’ experiences.
SUN PHOTOS BY ANNE EASKER
Rev. Louis Anderson, president of the NAACP, organized the hour of prayer in front of the Charlotte County Justice Center Wednesday because “prayer changes things,” he said.
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Prafke said the city leaders can set the stone for fairness, inclusion and openness in the community.
“As a nation, we are trying desperately to find a vaccine for COVID-19, and we have enlisted a significant amount of scientific and financial resources toward that goal,” she said. “Yet over the past few months, we have witnessed the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, as well as a racially induced encounter between Christian Cooper, birdwatching in Central Park, and Amy Cooper, no relation. These remind us once again of a problem that has plagued our nation for over 250 years. I’m talking about racial prejudice.
And yet we don’t seem to marshal the same amount of resources and passion and fervor that we have for combating COVID.”
Prafke said she fears when the protests die down, the issue will be pushed aside.
“We all possess our own biases and filters,” she said.
“None of us are free from this trait. We all have a responsibility to point out racism and other forms of bigotry when we see it.”
Law enforcement also spoke, including Punta Gorda Police Chief Pam Davis and Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell.
Davis said the officers who killed George Floyd failed not only their community but the entire profession.
“Our profession has been tarnished again and many good police departments are having to re-ensure their communities that they have good policies, procedures, and training place to protect their citizens from police misconduct,” she said. “I want to re-ensure our community that the Punta Gorda Police Department continues to be proactive with our policies and our training.
We are very active in this community and we continually find ways to enhance community relations.”
Prummell said the “thin blue line” of law enforcement divides order and chaos, but through recent events “that line has become faded or even broken in places.”
“There is a perception, there is a narrative that there’s widespread racism and brutality in law enforcement,” he said. “The 1% has become the 100%. It is up to us in law enforcement to change that narrative and not only change that narrative — the 1% is unacceptable and it’s up to us to weed them out. We cannot lose the trust of our community.
Clergy, law enforcement, county officials, and community members gathered for prayer outside the Charlotte County Justice Center Wednesday afternoon.
SUN PHOTO BY ANNE EASKER