BOSTON – Members of Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury had an open and honest conversation with the Suffolk County district attorney and FBI about the safety of Black churches a month after white supremacists marched through downtown Boston.
"We denounce those who came wearing khaki pants, dark blue jeans and white gaiters covering their face," Rev. Willie Bodrick II told reporters outside his church.
He's describing members of the hate group Patriot Front, who were seen over the Fourth of July weekend clashing with a Black man.
Bodrick said he's no stranger to racism or hate.
"We've always been on alert recognizing that these types of threats, potential threats, can be dangerous to us and our communities," he said.
He wanted to hear from churchgoers about their concerns, along with District Attorney Kevin Hayden and an FBI special agent about how people of color can protect themselves in the face of hate.
"We cannot meet the horror and hatred of these groups unkind," explained Hayden. "If we do so, we will fail. If we do, we'll give them what they want."
The reverend also spoke about active shooter training to protect churchgoers during service.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu also joined the conversation Wednesday afternoon.
"This is a priority of the city," Bodrick explained. "How do we work together? How do we not embolden these groups? That is what the mayor's message is."
The congregation acknowledges that the First Amendment makes prosecuting rioters more difficult, but they plan to use their right to speak up to fight back peacefully.
"We can raise up our standards against these white supremacy groups, but we need to do it in a way that we are exercising our right to free speech without further exasperating the problem," said Hayden.
On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins also announced the creation of the End Hate Now hotline, which Massachusetts residents can call to report hate-based incidents and crimes.
"Protecting Massachusetts residents from violence and hate is the top priority of my administration," Rollins said in a statement.
The hotline number is 1-83-END-H8-NOW (1-833-634-8669).
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