BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- A leading Bridgeport pastor said he is greatly saddened by the deaths of two black men who were shot by police officers in separate incidents in Louisiana and Minnesota.
"As a father, I'm devastated at the loss of life of the young men who did what they were instructed to do — and yet their lives were cut short," Anthony L. Bennett, pastor of Mount Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport, said in a phone interview Friday.
Bennett said he wants his congregation and the public to know that it is not crazy or unreasonable to grieve at a time like this -- it is understandable.
The two African-American man were shot multiple times. Both were armed but neither was showing a weapon, and both shootings were captured on cellphone videos.
Bennett stressed that children should be comforted by their loved ones during this difficult time and be reassured that "We love you and will do our best to try to keep you safe," Bennett said.
Bennett said that although he fears for the people in his own life and in his church, his fear is not solely in response to recent events. Rather, it is a constant fear -- one that will never go away, he said.
"The threat of our lives as African-Americans didn't begin or end with the last week's shooting," he said. "When our children go out the door, we always wonder will they come back to us."
Bennett said that while growing up in Los Angeles, his parents had the same fears as he does now. He relayed a story of when, as a young man, he was once pulled off a bus by police and embarrassed in front of people because "I fit the profile," he said, adding he had a Bible in his pocket at the time.
He said his story is far from unique. "It is multiplied millions of times by the majority of African-American males -- whether we are wearing a suit or a jogging suit, we are profiled. There is always a pre-conceived suspicion."
Bennett said Mount Aery Baptist Church strives to be a place of grace and strength "where people can be affirmed in their grief and still find meaning and purpose and faith to do good and to make our community a better place for our people."
Mount Aery Baptist Church has planned a march Sunday to inspire positive change and to help the community heal from the recent tragic events. For more information on the march, click here.
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