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Local church raises awareness for police brutality victims

By Zack Frink

A local church is raising awareness for police brutality victims. College Hill Community Church is displaying crosses on their front lawn featuring the names of Black people who were killed by police officers.

The initiative started in the wake of George Floyd being killed by a police officer earlier this year. The church’s senior pastor, Rev. Dr. Merritt Worthen, brought the idea up to College Hill’s leadership so victims of police brutality didn’t slip out of the public’s consciousness.

Worthen said friends of the church donated crosses. College hill members and friends of the church then constructed and painted 20 crosses. The crosses are displayed in front of College Hill and feature the names of police brutality victims that have garnered national headlines like Breonna Taylor, Alton Sterling and Tamir Rice.

“We were getting honks of horns, people waving and some would just even stop and roll down the window and say how much they appreciated us doing that,” she said about the overwhelmingly positive response the church has received from the surrounding community.

College Hill has received a small amount of criticism for the crosses and Worthen said the church wants to bring reconciliation and healing to their community. “While we're still raising awareness and protesting, we are not ignoring the importance of the police officers feeling safe and supported,” she said.

Worthen wants to make sure that the College Hill’s critics don’t misconstrue their message. “They want to say ‘It's unpatriotic,’ or ‘Blue lives matter,’” she said. “We're not debating that. We're debating that senseless killings of African Americans by police officers, some rogue police officers, that the judicial judicial system must address.”

The crosses will stay up indefinitely to serve as a tragic reminder of police brutality affecting the Black community. The church plans to add five more crosses in the future to highlight additional police brutality victims.

Outside of the crosses, College Hill is involved with other community initiatives. Worthen said the church is involved in voter advocacy efforts, raising awareness about institutional racism and helping their community through the coronavirus pandemic by passing out face masks.

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