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Local pastor hosts racial justice vigil, encourages community engagement

PITTSBURGH — On Friday afternoon, community members gathered at East Liberty Presbyterian Church for a vigil focused on racial justice.

Those gathered said the names of people killed by police officers.

”George Floyd. Ma’Khia Bryant. Adam Toledo.“

”He was a 13-year-old boy that was shot by police.“

”Sadly, there are way too many names.”

Remembering the names is just one step toward what Pittsburgh’s minority community is fighting for.

”Justice is really ultimately what it is, that we stand for.”

For some in Pittsburgh, the fight for justice is a family affair.

Cassie Semler has two children, and she brings them to local vigils and protests.

“It’s important for me to show them civic engagement and activism, and making sure that they know it’s important to do your part,” said Semler.

Semler was joined by others outside the East Liberty Presbyterian Church who gathered to hear speeches and recognize the movement happening across America.

”To continue putting pressure on the community to work for justice to not consider one court case to have answered all the needs of this nation,” said Pastor Randy Bush of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church.

Pastor Bush and the National Black Presbyterian Caucus planned Friday’s vigil.

“Not let there be different justices. Not let there be different outcomes when there’s police encounters. Not let there be differences in schooling and health care and opportunities,” said Pastor Bush.

“All of us are responding in part of the verdict on Derek Chauvin.”

”A lot of us were thinking it was so quick we thought that the verdict was going to be not guilty,”

Channel 11 reached out to local police on how they are responding to events like Friday’s.

”Within the Pennsylvania State Police we are trying every single day to make our communities just feel more comfortable and trust the police and be totally transparent; that’s why we are implanting new things within the state police,” said Cpl. Aaron Allen of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Cpl. Allen is under the Heritage Affairs Office, which attempts to ensure a positive relationship between law enforcement and the community.

“We just created a new office, which the office community engagement that is solely just targeting relationships in the community. It’s so important that we put that at the forefront of our department,” said Cpl. Allen.