MEMPHIS, Tenn—More than a hundred church members gathered downtown Memphis Saturday afternoon to march for non-violence in the city.
The name of the event was ‘the violence must stop’, organized by Israel United in Christ.
Israel United in Christ is a part of the Hebrew Israelite religious movement. The movement is rooted in the belief that emancipated slaves were the “chosen people” of God.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated them as a hate group and described them as an “extremist fringe”, citing anti-Semitic and racist beliefs.
However, they said the purpose of the event was to battle the images of violence, and not about their religious beliefs.
While walking the downtown streets, marchers chanted things like, ‘Some of us use to sell drugs but no more.’
Many tourists and Memphis residents stood on the sidewalks, inside of restaurants and even apartment building balconies all to watch the men march.
“Black men particularly, we’ve filled the prison houses at a rate more than any other race. So we have to learn to keep God’s laws so that we can unite as people again and take responsibility for our family and our lives,” Bishop Nathan Yel Israel said.
The group said the march was about changing the midsets of the younger generation and also the mindsets of individuals in general.
Memphis native Deena Spuryer and her family watched as the men marched past them.
She believes marches and protests are good ways to send a message.
“I think that was a great show of how we can get out there and express our viewpoints and express how we feel and make a peaceful protest.”
While standing in a straight line and walking as one, the marching men said they wanted to send an unspoken message to those who may have also been watching from afar.
“We can be in order. We are structured people.”
They said the organized brotherhood was a way to show that people must come together as one — and Spuryer agreed.
“I’ve lived in Memphis all of my life and I think sometimes the violence is overshadowed or it’s exaggerated or over-played so when I see things like that I think it’s really good for the city.”
Spuryer said people constantly ask her if she’s scared to live in such a high crime city and she always says “no”.
She believes Memphis is a great city with great people but does agree the violence must come to an end.
“Hopefully more of those (marches) will help people see that we are aware of it and that the community is out,” Spuryer said.
Some people thought otherwise of the men’s actions, saying that marching messages may have a better impact if they are performed in smaller groups.
All did agree though, that having more resources in high crime areas may help limit crime.