Roland Martin talks to Pastor Jamal Bryant of Empowerment Temple in Baltimore about the unrest in the city and why the Mayor shouldn’t have closed schools due to the violence on the street.
“It is absolutely amazing and unnerving. Yesterday was supposed to be a moratorium. Within a matter of hours, the whole city has shifted. I don’t think it was outsiders, I think it was residents right here in Baltimore,” Bryant said.
TOM JOYNER: Roland Martin, from Washington D.C., good morning.
ROLAND MARTIN: Tom, Sybil and Jay, good morning. On the phone line joining us right now from Baltimore, Pastor Jamal Bryant of Empowerment Temple. Pastor Bryant, last week, it was Tuesday, it was a week ago today when you and others led a march raising the awareness of the death of Freddie Gray. His funeral was yesterday. And we see a different Baltimore one week later.
PASTOR BRYANT: It is absolutely amazing and unnerving, considering Roland that yesterday was supposed to be a memoratorium. There shouldn’t have been any marches or protests yesterday at the request of the family. So can you imagine our shock coming back from the cemetery and getting a code red that the city was up in flames? So within a matter of hours the whole culture and ethos of the whole city has shifted to completely go out of control. And contrary to the propaganda the government is trying to also – I don’t think it was outsiders, I think it was residents from right here in Baltimore.
TOM JOYNER: You know, Pastor Bryant, Congressman Cummings was on the air just about 40 minutes ago. And he said as soon as he walked out of the church he got word from people on the ground that they were going to the mall and were going to tear stuff up.
PASTOR BRYANT: Right.
TOM JOYNER: How come you didn’t feel that on the ground until you left the cemetery?
PASTOR BRYANT: Because he didn’t go. The cemetery is in the opposite direction. So I didn’t see it and he would have access to information that I wouldn’t necessarily had. He got it from the police department, because somehow or another they got a tip while we were in the funeral that this was converging. Don’t forget that the funeral psalm was at 11 o’clock. So the students were still in school. So stuff really didn’t break off until about 3:30.
ROLAND MARTIN: Now I have to ask you that, because we saw these reports that public transportation had been stopped, and that a lot of stu—that this mall is a transportation hub, and so when the students arrive they were greeted by cops already in riot gear. How much sense did that make to cut off the transportation? Did that actually happen to your knowledge?
PASTOR BRYANT: It was an absolute nightmare. I got there, Roland, and I got – so middle school, high school girls crying because they don’t know how they’re going to get home. And they don’t have cellphones. So I had to orchestrate from men from my church to start walking these young ladies home and driving them home. It was an absolute nightmare. And I think the second worse thing is that they shut down the schools today. If anything these kids needed to be in one concentrated area so that we could impart some knowledge. So the consequence, Roland and Tom, I opened up my church today so that we can have an institute, so that they understand what civil disobedience means, what is the historical perspective, and so that you understand you don’t loot CVS to get justice. You don’t steal tennis shoes in order for you to represent the name of Freddie Gray. And so these young people really have got to be acclimated because we’re way off course from where it is we started just a week ago.
ROLAND MARTIN: Are city officials communi—are city officials, political officials, law enforcement officials, are they communicating with you and other pastors and grassroots activists in some of these decisions? Because, again, I’m looking at – again, school being out on today, it’s 80,000 students, 84% of the kids are on free or reduced lunch. I mean that makes no sense. And so if the commissioner yesterday says we were outmanned, you really going to be outmanned today with 80,000 not in a classroom.
PASTOR BRYANT: It is, I don’t know who they’re talking to, who their advisor is, but they get to get fired. Tom and Roland, I’m going to send you all pictures for you all to put on the website right now and see how the National Guard get out of buses in riot gear downtown. You all have got to see this. It’s absolutely, it’s Beirut. I’ve never seen anything like it.
TOM JOYNER: But pastor, is that a mistake? Do you believe that by having the police or the National Guard, come out in riot gear? You’re essentially saying, ‘okay, throw stuff at us.’ I mean in Ferguson it was sort of the same thing, you don’t bring out that response until it’s necessary.
PASTOR BRYANT: Tom, you know about operating a crowd? I don’t even know what 5,000 looks like, but we’ve got 5,000 troops on the ground here. So I think yesterday, undeniably, was a black eye for the city of Baltimore and to our community. But there’s 5,000. We’re in martial law. We’ve got a curfew for the next seven days. I don’t know how you do healing in the midst of this environment. And it’s going to be an uphill battle. We’re doing an emergency town hall meeting at my church at 7:30 this evening to give the community two things; one, an opportunity to vent, and two, so that we can start talking about strategy. How do we move on from here? Just for us to be angry doesn’t bring us to any resolve.
SYBIL WILKES: How can they follow you, Pastor, today in advance of this town hall meeting?
PASTOR BRYANT: Say it one more time? I’m sorry.
SYBIL WILKES: How do they follow you on social media?
PASTOR BRYANT: Yes, I’m on Twitter at JamalHBryant, or Instagram, JamalHBryant. If you follow me I’ll be giving you updates, and I’m going to send you all pictures so you all could see what this military base formally known as Baltimore looks like.
TOM JOYNER: Any Baltimore pastors, let us know if you’re opening your churches, and also providing lunches, so that we can let people know so that these kids are not roaming the streets necessary.
PASTOR BRYANT: And Tom, can I get ten seconds to just say one last thing?
TOM JOYNER: Yeah.
PASTOR BRYANT: From what the news is not reporting is the Bloods and Crips signed a peace treaty yesterday and they’re getting ready to walk the streets with the ministers today so that we can start cleaning up the streets and black people from doing any further damage to our businesses. I just wanted to put that out, because we always hear a negative, but I wanted to make sure the good was spoken up.
TOM JOYNER: Yeah, and send me pictures of people cleaning up the streets too, along with the pictures that you just said so we could put it up on www.blackamerica.com, okay?
PASTOR BRYANT: All right, it’s coming. Thank you, all.
SOURCE: Black America Web