Black faith leaders issue statement to local leaders

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LEXINGTON, KY (WTVQ)- Lexington black faith leaders are challenging local government for change and reform; and not just with law enforcement practices.

Nearly 100 people walked from Main Street Baptist Church to downtown Lexington Thursday to hand deliver a joint statement to Mayor Linda Gorton, Police Chief Lawrence Weathers and Fayette County Sheriff Kathy Witt.

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It’s a message that Japez Missionary Baptist Church Rev. Dr. David Peoples said has always been in their soul. Following the events from last week, more than 50 faith leaders from mostly from black churches came together to make sure their voices are heard.

“We are here to say, ‘No more.’ Enough is enough. We demand justice,” said Rev. Dr. Peoples.

Justice involves two types of reform. They want to see no knock warrants eliminated and the creation of an independent citizen review board that is diverse. Faith leaders believe more transparency, accountability and community participation will earn the trust of minorities, especially African-Americans.

Additionally, in a city that is 25-percent minority, they are challenging city, education and business leaders to open more economic goals. That goal is more diverse inclusion for minority businesses with a minimum 15 percent of total venders and contractor spending.

“We’re calling upon all elected or appointed officials to work with us in making this dire need a reality,” said Rev. Dr. Joseph Owens, Shiloh Basptist Church.

Thursday’s march and statement is just the start for faith leaders. They plan to follow up with city officials next week to continue the dialogue and help bring about change.

“There must be a partnership, a level of accountability between government and community,” said Rev. Dr. Owens.

However, their voice and actions are not enough. Rev. Dr. Owens said the call to action must include everyone and that more white faith leaders must do more than just voice support behind the scenes.

“Anyone who knows the good that they ought to do, but does not do it, it is sin for them,” said Rev. Dr. Owens.

During each stop Thursday, faith leaders gathered to pray for each office and department and to allow them to help start the conversation. Mayor Gorton, Chief Weathers and Sheriff Witt said they are listening and want to have this conversation to build better trust within the community.

“We understand that words are just that, but actions along with those words mean a lot more,” said Chief Weathers.

“I was hoping that we would move from these expressions that we’ve seen over the last several nights, which have been really good, to a really strong conversation going in both directions because our community needs it,” said Sheriff Witt. “Our commonwealth needs it. Our nation needs it.”

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Austin Miller joins ABC 36 Sports Team as a Sports Reporter and Weekend Anchor. Austin is from the Louisville area and graduated from St. Xavier High School in 2008. Austin graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a second concentration in German. While at IU, Austin was a blogger at Kentsterling.com and co-host, producer and engineer for WIUX, the school’s student radio station. Before coming to ABC 36, Austin was a news videographer at WLFI in West Lafayette from 2012-2015. While working with WLFI, Austin had the chance to cover the Purdue Boilermakers. He then accepted a Sports/New Reporter position at Local 4 KSNB-TV in Hastings Nebraska and was eventually promoted to sports full-time as the Weekend Sports Anchor/Reporter. While at KSNB-TV, Austin covered the University of Nebraska, the University of Nebraska-Kearney and Hastings College. After spending nearly six years away from home, Austin is excited to return to the Bluegrass State to cover the teams he grew up watching. In his spare time, Austin enjoys playing basketball, working out and cooking. If you have any story ideas or would like to say “Hello,” you can reach Austin by email at amiller@wtvq.com or direct message him on Twitter @AustinMillerTV.