North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in Charlotte after the recent escalation of riots in the city. Participants in Wednesday’s riot “threw bottles of water, trash cans, even plants they ripped from the ground at police” and smashed windows to protest the death of Keith Lamont Scott, who was shot by police for refusing to drop his gun.
Sixteen police officers were injured in Tuesday’s riots and city officials reported that a civilian shot another civilian on Wednesday. Many buildings were damaged, including the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Seeking to counteract the violent protests and high tensions in the city, Father Patrick Winslow, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, held a peaceful prayer vigil at his church on Wednesday, only a few blocks away from the original shooting.
Leading those present in Eucharistic adoration during the vigil, Father Winslow urged his parishioners, “In times such as these it is good to recall that light shines in the darkness, and it must shine through you…Knowing the genuine spirit of our parishioners, I am confident that you will embrace a path of peace, prayer and charity.”
Winslow then challenged all those in Charlotte to turn inwards, looking at the war that is going on in their heart instead of continuing the pattern of violence and looting:
“I beg you, storm and loot your hearts, not the streets, if you want true change for the good…Vanquish the enemy within and then you will truly help your neighbor.”
Religious education classes at the parish were cancelled on Wednesday due to the violent protests that were occurring in the neighborhood.
Many other local churches are beginning to host peaceful prayer vigils for their congregations and Bishop Peter J. Jugis of the Charlotte Diocese issued a statement regarding the situation, asking for increased prayers for peace:
“After two nights of violence in the city of Charlotte I call upon the half million Catholic men, women and children of the Diocese of Charlotte to join me in prayer.
“Let us pray for peace and for justice, not only for the victims of violence in Charlotte, but for all of the victims throughout our country.
“Let us pray for the members of our law enforcement organizations who have been victims of unjust violence. Let us pray for all men and women of good will to be instruments of harmony and the always shining light of Christ in our neighborhoods, work places, schools and public spaces.”
Tensions remain high in Charlotte as protests are expected to continue. Governor Pat McCrory has given city leaders the support of state police as well as the National Guard if protests turn violent again.