On Saturday night, they went to work marching in big and small groups, chanting and looking for fights and other ways to act out their hatred. D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham estimated there were as many as 700 Proud Boys or others supporting their cause roving through the city.
The numbers from a night of mayhem: more than three dozen arrests, four stabbings and Black Lives Matter banners and signs torn and destroyed from at least two historic Black churches, at Asbury United Methodist Church at the corner of 11th and K streets NW and Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church at 15th and M streets NW. At Metropolitan AME, they chanted — as they destroyed the BLM sign — “Whose streets? Our streets!” The banner belonging to Asbury United Methodist Church was set on fire.
The Rev. William H. Lamar IV of Metropolitan AME told his congregation not to be surprised by the “signs, sounds, or fury” of this moment. Yes, the church’s Black Lives Matter sign was destroyed, Lamar said. But he reminded the worshipers — and this city — that for nearly two centuries, Metropolitan has “lifted and lived out an affirmative gospel.”
His message to the Proud Boys: “Black Lives Matter: yesterday, today, forever.”
Asbury United’s senior pastor the Rev. Ianther M. Mills declared in a statement that as horrible as it is, the burning in the street “doesn’t compare with the challenges and fears the men and women who started Asbury, 184 years ago, faced.”
Mills’s notice to the Proud Boys: “We will move forward, undaunted in our assurance that Black Lives Matter and we are obligated to continue to shout that truth without ceasing.”
We know the racist pedigree of this kind of fire in America. The Ku Klux Klan used to take a match to Black homes and bodies back in the days of darkness. Darkness that has made a comeback in these days of Trump.
How President Trump feels about the Proud Boys’ behavior in Washington is unclear. But never forget: During a televised presidential debate with Biden, when asked to condemn White supremacists, Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by,” which they took as a rallying cry. They’re not standing by any more.
The Proud Boys are ignoramuses. I know those churches. Worshiped in them, attended weddings in them and sat through more home-going services in them than I can remember.
Trump’s fanboys assaulted the church homes of people of faith — and pews that have filled with leaders too numerous and too vast in endeavors and achievements to number.
My thoughts turn to my Howard University classmate Charles A. Hines, who was commissioned into the U.S. Army in 1962, one year after I received my commission.
I think of retired Army Major Gen. Hines, the first Black commander of a military installation in the South and later a college president, and of his funeral at Asbury United Methodist Church, and how those good-for-nothing Proud Boys thought they could defile “Chuck’s” place of worship by trespassing and destroying what didn’t belong to them.
As if. Trump and his hateful acolytes are a national disgrace that need to get out, and be made to stay out, of Washington.