Minnesota pastor believes protests are a “real opportunity” to change the system

National News

(CBS) — Five miles north of the Minneapolis intersection where George Floyd was killed is the neighborhood of Hawthorne. The National Guard was sent there in the summer of 1967 when young African Americans rebelled against an unjust power structure. Now, 53 years later, spiritual wounds remain. There’s a pastor there who’s praying for change and keeping the faith.

Pastor Edrin Williams’ Sanctuary Covenant Church has been on a mission for unity for 12 years.

Williams said racism is deeply rooted in America.

“When you run into somebody in the community and they’re angry … it’s because every single thing that has been set into place we’re told is supposed to help us is working against us,” he explained.

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Pastor Edrin Williams seen with CBS News’ Jamie Yuccas.  CBS NEWS

In Hawthorne, 35% of the community lives below the federal poverty level; 40% are unemployed — the neighborhood has seen unrest before. In 2015, protesters demanded justice for the death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark, who was shot and killed by police.

“This can’t be another band aid put on this thing,” Williams said. “This is like a real opportunity to actually change the system. And if the system can’t be changed then we need to tear the system down.”

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Sammy McDowell of Sammy’s Avenue Eatery.  CBS NEWS

Sammy McDowell owns Sammy’s Avenue Eatery. The cafe and other stores have signs in the window that say: “black owned business,” reminiscent of  black business owners in Detroit doing the same during the 1967 riots as fires ripped through over the weekend. McDowell feared he could lose everything. Still, he sided with protesters.

“A lot of people don’t feel like they’re destroying their community, they feel like people are angry and a lot of people who get so angry they’re hitting a wall,” he explained.

In this community named for author Nathaniel Hawthorne, Pastor Williams sees hope in the protest.

“I’m grateful for people who … for whom the goal is not just to be a good person but to actually be about equity and justice and equality, because it takes more than simply you being nice to me for us to fix what’s broken in our country right now.”

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