CEDAR RAPIDS — Around 40 people gathered in Greene Square on Wednesday evening to pray for peace and understanding among Americans as protests of police violence and the death of George Floyd and other black Americans continued throughout Iowa and the nation.
“God, this is a long time in coming,” said Beth Telecky, one of the event’s organizers, praying the ongoing pain and unrest would result in change. “We do not want to go back to normal.”
Worshippers bowed their heads in prayer and lifted their hands in song throughout the hourlong event, which was held a week after Floyd, a black man, died as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Many came forward to address the crowd in prayer, including Monthe Brown, a black woman from Hiawatha. She urged the mostly white crowd to address injustices within the United States and to embrace each other.
“Don’t be afraid of me because I look different. Don’t be afraid of me because I speak different. Yes, I speak louder than you’re probably accustomed to hearing, but that’s who I am,” Brown said, her voice cracking as her eyes welled. “I love. I cry. I hurt.
“I love Jesus — I love Jesus’ people. We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to stop throwing rocks and hiding our hands.”
Brown returned to her seat on a park bench and soon was wrapped in a sobbing hug with another woman.
Organizers said another prayer event is planned for 7 p.m. Thursday on May’s Island.
Worshippers who attend various Cedar Rapids-area churches spoke during the event, where few in attendance wore masks as protection from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. They prayed for “a righteous peace” rather than a false one, as well as for local and federal politicians trying to manage the unrest.
Some grappled with the United States’ racist history.
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“We see how Satan has woven racism into the very fabric that we have raised our children in — that we have been raised in,” said Deedee Scaffidi of Cedar Rapids, after addressing American slaveholders’ use of Christianity and the Bible. “We are blinded, and we are living in a delusion that Satan has loved creating.”
Emily Ruggiero of Cedar Rapids said she attended Wednesday’s event so her two toddlers could see “people coming together for the good.” She ultimately spoke to the crowd through heavy tears about her desire to repent.
“I just got hit really hard with it,” she said as the event ended. “ … I’ve never been part of a group of people that’s caused me to reflect and have to think about myself in such a way.”
She said she’s watched silently as her social media feeds have filled with opinions about race and the police in recent days. She said she would leave the event hoping to think differently and love others differently in her own life.
“I want to do things with my life like raise my children to love powerfully, regardless of anything,” she said, her daughter fidgeting in her arms. “It’s so easy for everybody to have an opinion ... but that’s the easy road.”
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