The pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and now US senator was once detained while peacefully protesting Trump budget cuts
Black people have been harassed, detained, arrested, and even murdered for various seemingly innocuous activities, from birdwatching to running to owning an iPhone.
But in 2017, Rev. Raphael Warnock, who was just elected to the U.S. Senate in Georgia in a hotly contested election that determined the balance of the governing body, was arrested for … praying.
While Americans saw an out-of-control mob swarm the Capitol complex with little interference, resulting in one of the most horrific breaches of the House and Senate chambers since the 1800s, very few of the admitted participants were arrested.
In footage that went viral on social media, demonstrators were seen taking selfies with Capitol police, swarming past barriers opened by police, and escorting protesters away from the very buildings they illegally entered.
Yet in 2017, Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta’s famed Ebenezer Baptist Church, was among a group of peaceful protesters from the clergy who traveled to Washington, D.C. to oppose budget cuts proffered by President Donald Trump and the looming potential of a repeal of Obamacare.
According to OCGNews, Warnock was arrested and later released after he and the others were singing and praying on the U.S. Capitol’s grounds on July 18. The delegation, including Pastor Cynthia L. Hale of Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Georgia, was arrested in the rotunda in the Russell Senate Office Building in the sprawling complex.
A few short years ago, Capitol Police arrested Rev. Raphael Warnock for praying in the rotunda in protest of GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act https://t.co/bCEmBEws3k pic.twitter.com/M1N3JQRAKc
— Eugene Scott (@Eugene_Scott) January 7, 2021
Warnock said at the time that he was committed to improving conditions for what he called ‘the least of these.”
“As a pastor, I believe the national budget is not just a fiscal document but a moral document. It reflects what we believe and who we are for one another. And if this mean-spirited budget were an EKG, it would indicate that America has a heart condition,” Warnock said in a statement he released at the time. “The government is taking student aid, job training, and medicine from those who need it most in order to give a tax cut to those who need it least. We came to Washington as voices of healing and justice. America is better than this. That’s our message. And when I consider those who will suffer, my getting arrested is a small price to pay.”
Protesters who breached the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, the day Congress was to certify the President-elect Joe Biden’s victory officially, were treated much better than Black demonstrators who rallied for racial justice over the summer. Those peaceful demonstrators were met with a show of force by police around the country.
The predominantly white pro-Trump mob was able not just to get inside the Capitol and the chambers of the House and Senate, they were able to access lawmaker’s offices. Law enforcement has made several public pleas to identify individuals who were photographed or recorded doing illegal activities, many punishable with years of jail time given that they were committed on federal grounds.
According to NPR, 70 people were arrested on Wednesday, and 15 federal cases have been filed thus far.
“Obviously, it was a failure, or you would not have had police lines breached and people enter the Capitol building by breaking windows,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a press conference Thursday. “And terrorizing the people, the members of Congress who were doing a very sacred constitutional requirement of their jobs. So clearly, there was failure there.”
Warnock referenced his previous arrest while accepting the rule of the voters in his Georgia Senate victory.
“I’m going to meet those Capitol police officers again,” Warnock said in his victory speech before the Capitol was breached. “This time they will not be taking me to central booking. They can help me find my new office.”
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