‘This is a warzone’: Memphis pastors plead with city to lay down guns

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A group of Memphis pastors is not holding back, saying people need to be angry about the violence we’re seeing on city streets every day.

“Memphis is a city under siege. We are a city in war. This is a warzone. This is not a community,” Pastor Bill Adkins of Greater Imani Church said in a message with clergy from across the city Friday. “Why aren’t we angry? Why aren’t we upset?”

Their message comes after at least three teens had to be hospitalized overnight after shootings across the city. So far this year Memphis has seen more than 60 murders.

Their anger, their plea, their frustration boiled over after another night of violence in Memphis. 

“Citizens are sleeping on their floors and in their bathtubs, falling asleep every night by the sound of gunfire,” Adkins said.

The pastors said people need to speak up if they know something about a crime. 

“We become so easily angered about police brutality which we should, but we should also be angered by the senseless murders, the homicides, the stray bullets that fly within out communities.”

He talked about the hurt a member of his congregation feels. They’re relatives of a little girl recently shot while in a home. 

Families like Steve Kennon’s feel the loss. A 64-year-old retired Army veteran, he was shot and killed after an apparent road rage incident earlier this year. 

“Our communities are worse than some communities in Iraq, worse than communities in warzones. We have soldiers who go and fight for these countries in other lands and go through these wars unscathed. But come home to be struck down by a bullet,” Adkins said.

He called for honest discussions, community forums, more police involvement, saying it’s up to the community to hold those in power accountable. Most importantly, people must show they care. 

“We have socioeconomic problems, we’re aware of that, but we must stop making excuses for rampant crime that’s taking the lives of citizens every day,” Adkins said. “I don’t have all the answers but I’m willing to work with anyone that does.”

Adkins is also part of the group asking questions of the next police director. He said the city cannot hire any police director just on the basis that they’re a good cop. They need to have a special understanding of underserved communities and being black in America. 

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