After Week's Tragic Violence, Americans Remain Divided on Issues of Police Accountability and Race

Posted July 13, 2016

MP3 Interview with Graylan Hagler, senior pastor, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Washington, D.C., conducted by Scott Harris


After two years of focus on police violence, protests and debate, America just witnessed a tumultuous week, which began with the police shooting deaths of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Both incidents documented in part on smart phone video recordings that went viral across American social media and around the globe. The police shootings of these two African-American men were followed by the murder of five police officers and the wounding of seven others in Dallas, Texas during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest march. The sniper attack was carried out by a lone U.S. Army veteran who told police negotiators before his death that he was angry about recent police violence.

In remarks made in Dallas during a memorial service for the slain officers on July 12, President Obama said, "Hope does not arise by putting our fellow man down. It is found by lifting others up. And that's what I take away from the lives of these outstanding men," he said. "I believe our sorrow can make us a better country. I believe our righteous anger can be transformed into more justice and more peace." But other voices on the right were not on the same page as the president. Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh declared that activists in the Black Lives Matter movement were, “terrorists.” And former Republican New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani asserted that the Black Lives Matter movement is "inherently racist," and that the group puts a target on the backs of police officers.

Following the police shootings, Black Lives Matter protests were held in dozens of cities across the U.S., with the participation of tens of thousands. In some cities, civil disobedience actions resulted in hundreds of arrests. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Graylan S. Hagler, senior pastor at Washington, D.C.’s Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ. Here, Rev. Hagler examines why Americans remain so divided on the issues of police accountability and race, after a week of tragic violence.

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