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In addition to garnering the rapt attention of America’s media, the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police killing of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown have inspired action here in Philadelphia. Along with vigils and protests here in the city, the Philadelphia Daily News recently reported that members of Philadelphia’s faith community have traveled to Ferguson to peacefully demonstrate and show solidarity with protestors.

When they arrived, they were promptly teargassed by Missouri policemen.

Valerie Russ writes for the Daily News that the group of Philadelphians “had gone to Ferguson as part of Philadelphia POWER, a group of congregations that bring people of all races, faiths, and income levels together to work for justice for the city and region.” One of those people of faith, Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, heads Philly’s Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Kelly tells the Daily News that he and other peaceful demonstrators were “just standing there, when out of the blue, two [policemen] started shooting off rapid-fire guns that shot canisters in both directions. These were immediately followed by shock grenades. They make a noise like a bomb went off.” Dispersing deliberately, the demonstrators tried to return later, but Tyler tells the People Paper that the tear gas was “too much” to bear.

“Our eyes started burring, our throats were burning,” he laments. “Finally we jogged out of there. It was too much.”

Kelly’s congregation, Mother Bethel, is located at 6th and Lombard streets in Center City right near the site of the Lombard Street race riots. The church also has a dramatically important place in both Philadelphia’s and the nation’s civil rights history.

As the nation continues to witness citizens apparently brutalized at the hands of police, people of faith, McDonald’s, and even librarians have lent their support to the protestors there in Ferguson. Around the same time that a local McDonald’s became a makeshift shelter for protestors after police attacks (it was not looted, folks there were seeking shelter from teargas), librarians there in Ferguson offered their support for community members, too.

“We are here for all of our residents,” the Ferguson Library tweeted on August 15. “If you want to come, get water, read, check email, we are here.” Since then, the library has facilitated safe activities for children and families away from the teargas.

The Ferguson Library has also posted a sign reading, “During difficult times, the library is a quiet oasis where we can catch our breath, learn, and think about what to do next.  Please help keep our oasis peaceful and serene!”

About The Author

Contributing columnist

Josh Kruger is an award-winning writer and commentator in Philadelphia. His @PhillyWeekly column, “The Uncomfortable Whole,” took the 2014 First Place Spotlight Award for weekly newspaper commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists and the 2014 Second Place Award for weekly newspaper commentary in the United States and Canada from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. He also blogs daily for PW on various topics including queer culture and news, mass transit, politics, crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, civil liberties, activism, media and everything else Philly.

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