Standing on the front steps of First Congregational Church of Oakland late last month, Nichola Torbett issued a declaration.
“We can no longer tolerate the trauma inflicted on our communities by policing,” Torbett, a white church volunteer, said in front of churchgoers who held photos of African Americans shot dead by law enforcement. The church, she promised, would never call the cops again in nearly every circumstance. Dozens of members had agreed to do the same.
“How do police help? They often don’t,” Torbett later said in an interview. “So, especially as white people, why call them?”
As videos of the aftermath of white Americans dialing 911 on African Americans for taking part in innocent activities have repeatedly gone viral — two black friends meeting at a Starbucks, a black grad student napping in a Yale dormitory common room, a black family having a barbecue just blocks from the Oakland congregation — members of this small church are taking extreme measures in response.
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