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Pastor On His Church Being Target During Pro-Trump Rally In D.C.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Groups that support President Trump and his fabricated claims about the election rallied over the weekend. There was violence. People were stabbed here in the nation's capital. And historic Black churches were targeted in what police are calling potential hate crimes. Black Lives Matter banners were torn down. They were set on fire. One of those banners was ripped from the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. That is one of Washington's oldest churches organized by African Americans. The pastor of Metropolitan AME Church, William Lamar IV, joins us now.

Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

WILLIAM LAMAR IV: Thank you so much.

KELLY: Would you describe what exactly happened at your church over the weekend and how you came to hear about it?

LAMAR: Sure. So from what we have been able to discern, the Black Lives Matter sign, which we placed outside of our church in solidarity with that movement, was taken down by anti-BLM forces. I don't want to name them so as to not give them any oxygen.

And so we do digital worship, as do many churches and synagogues and mosques and other communities of faith. And we go live at 9:30 a.m. And I began getting text messages about 9:10, 9:15, from a colleague, Karen Brau, who's the pastor at Luther Place Memorial. Now, that church is predominantly white. Karen texted me and said, I'm sorry to hear about what happened in Metropolitan. I said, Karen, I don't know what you're talking about. And she sent me a link.

This was jarring. And, you know, I told my - I kind of kicked into some form of pastoral adrenaline to get the job done. But in the very opening of the worship, I became emotional. I just - there was rage. There was anger. There was lament. There was resolve, joy, like, a confluence of emotions.

KELLY: I want to note that Metropolitan AME is a national historic site recognized by the National Park Service. There is so much history. I was amazed as I was reading up. Frederick Douglass worshipped at your church.

LAMAR: Yes, occasionally.

KELLY: Ida B. Wells spoke there. Booker - well, he was buried at your church. Is that right?

LAMAR: He was. Yeah, Mr. Douglass was a frequent worshipper. Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ida Wells-Barnett came, as you said, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois. But as important, the congregation is supported and nourished by everyday people like myself. And what we tell people is it is indeed the longest continuously held piece of property with unbroken African American ownership in the District of Columbia.

And so the persons coming to that space, as I have been told by persons who study these types of activities, they are often acquainted with the history. And so what they're doing in the contemporary moment is also an assault on our historical resolve and our assertion that we belong here, that this space is our space and that we will not leave, will not be intimidated.

KELLY: I do want to ask about your tweet. You tweeted - and I'll quote you - we have not been distracted by signs, sounds or fury for nearly two centuries. We worship. We liberate. We serve. Pastor Lamar, to those who ask, is that enough in turbulent times like this, you say what?

LAMAR: I say that what we wanted to do at that moment was to speak, to not add any fuel to the conflagration that others wish to start, but to be resilient and to be bold and to share that, you know, much of what we see is a distraction from the fact that from the time of expanding the franchise, persons have tried, through racist vigilante violence, to keep people from the polls, to keep people from their power. I am clear that our work is what it was and will be what it has always been, and that is to do that type of work.

KELLY: That is Pastor William Lamar IV of Washington's Metropolitan AME Church.

Thank you very much.

LAMAR: Thank you so much for the opportunity. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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