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Virginia Faith Leaders Respond To Chaos at Nation’s Capitol

Man yelling at police
Rioters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. With Congress preparing to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's victory, thousands gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump before attempting to breach the Capitol. (Photo: Julio Cortez/AP Photo)

Black pastors and other clergy with the progressive Virginia Interfaith Center condemned Wednesday’s siege at the U.S. Capitol building. 

During a Thursday press conference where the group announced their support for abolishing the state’s death penalty, Rev. LaKeisha Cook, a former pastor at St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Richmond, called Wednesday a day of extremes. 

“We woke to the final results of the election in Georgia where the people elected the first African American and the first Jewish Senator in the history of their state,” Cook said. “As the day progressed, we watched in horror as domestic terrorists invaded the U.S. Capitol.”

Cook tied much of the violence Wednesday to the country’s dark history of racism. The largely white group of pro-Trump extremists were protesting the certification of the electoral vote count in the Presidential election before a riot broke out and the Capitol was breached. A photographer captured an image of a man carrying a Confederate battle flag inside the building. The flag is used as a symbol of resistance to racial integration.  

“We are going to be unable to heal unless we finally acknowledge the wound of racism,” Cook said. “We can no longer ignore it. We can no longer tiptoe around it. It is very present. It is a part of the fabric of our country.”

Many news outlets and racial justice advocates also pointed out the stark contrast between the police response to yesterday’s unrest and the response to anti-racism protests last summer, calling it a clear example of white privilege. 

Rev. Marvin Warner, assistant pastor at North New Hope Baptist Church in Danville called for vigilance and prayer as political polarization continues into the new year. 

“We're in difficult days,” Warner said. “Not only that the pandemic is going on. People are socially distant. And people have been traumatized about all of this.”

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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