T.D. Jakes' town hall after Dallas shooting filled with tears, hugs
Bishop T.D. Jakes, preaching to several thousand people at his Potter’s House megachurch in west Dallas, prayed for healing Sunday morning, three days after five police officers were fatally shot during a Black Lives Matter march in downtown.
Jakes, whose congregation is mostly African-American, also focused on the deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota. Both black men were fatally shot by police last week.
“Heal our land,” Jakes prayed. “From the White House to the crack house, heal our land.”
In a town hall-style panel that lasted for about two hours, Jakes talked to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, two Dallas police officers and the family members of Castile and Sterling, among others.
Rawlings, who spoke briefly, said he has been mad at only two people since Thursday night — shooter Micah Johnson and “a politician who called the protesters hypocrites.”
Rawlings did not name Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who said Friday morning that the protesters in Dallas were hypocrites for running from the gunfire Thursday night, “expecting the men and women in blue to turn around and protect them.”
Rawlings, as he did Friday at a prayer rally, said the Dallas shooting should be a wakeup call for communities to unite, not divide.
Johnson told police he was upset with recent police shootings and that he wanted to kill white officers.
“Race is the big issue,” Rawlings told the crowd Sunday. “We have to be honest. But there are two questions: Do we really want to change? That’s a personal question. We can’t vote on it and make everyone change. Most people want the other guy to change. Do we want to change? If so, we have to get the right medicine for this. What we’re taking right now is separatism.”
‘We don’t do these things to ourselves’
Several Dallas police officers attended the meeting Sunday, and so did Mark Hughes, the African-American man who was mistakenly identified in a DPD tweet Thursday as a suspect and then a person of interest in the shootings.
Hughes, who was wearing a camouflage shirt and carrying a rifle over his shoulder in the photo, turned himself in to police and was released, but in the days since he says he has received thousands of threats even though he was legally, open-carrying his gun at the protest.
The mother of Alton Sterling’s children and the girlfriend of Philando Castile, who famously broadcast Castile’s death live on Facebook, spoke during the panel via telephone.
Castile’s girlfiend, Diamond Reynolds, said she wanted to document what happened to Castile so people can see that “we don’t do these things to ourselves.”
Her video showed Castile bleeding in the front seat of a car with an officer pointing a gun at him. She said Castile was reaching for his wallet when the officer shot him.
“These things are done to us,” Reynolds said.
Sandra Sterling, the aunt of Alton Sterling who raised him, said, “We just want justice.” Alton Sterling, 37, was fatally shot Tuesday by a white officer outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, La.
“Maybe we need to change the policies and re-train these officers,” Sandra Sterling said.
Praise for police at Potter’s House
But the mood at the Potter’s House on Sunday was far from critical of Dallas police.
Jakes opened the service with praise of the city’s police officers before showing pictures of each officer killed Thursday night.
Often, he said, supporters of causes like Black Lives Matter are perceived to not have respect for police.
“I just don’t believe that,” Jakes told the crowd. “I just want to stand for what is right. We have been wounded as a city. We were having a peaceful protest [Thursday] for our rights. [Police] went into action mode to protect our right to speak.”
At one point during the panel, Jakes hugged a sobbing Dallas police officer, Steve Gentry, who was on duty Thursday night.
“We are with you,” Jakes told him.
Said Jeremiah Jennings, 17, an attendee from Arlington: “It’s like an apple tree — not all apples are bad. Not every police officer is bad.”