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California AME Churches Express Grief–and Add Security

Members of black churches in California responding to the horrific attack on Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina Wednesday are expressing their grief, and noting that the attack recalled prior eras when racism was more widely accepted. Meanwhile, the LAPD upped its patrol around black churches, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The Rev. John Cager of the Ward AME Church in Los Angeles comforted his parishioners, telling them that church would still be held on Sunday, asserting, “Of course there will be church. There will be church now, more than ever.”

L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck told Ward AME that LAPD patrols would be on special alert around AME churches across L.A. for the time being, the Times notes. He added: “The LAPD will stand with you to ensure houses of worship are safe. We will take all necessary measures to make sure this kind of attack does not repeat itself.”

On Thursday, at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest black church in L.A., where skinheads attempted to blow up the building and ignite a race war in the 1990s, a prayer vigil was held.

In Sacramento, churches have acknowledged that they already have security procedures in place, noting that attacking black churches is nothing new.

Jean Perkins, an administrator for the Calvary Christian Center in Sacramento, told local CBS 13, “I couldn’t believe it, But then, I could believe it, because that’s the times that we’re living in.” She added that the church has had to prepare its defenses because the church has been targeted before. “We’ve had a lot of vandalism, church bus burnings, we’ve had a lot of things going on.”

Calvary Christian Center has security personnel who attend its services, some of whom are armed. Groups such as the National Organization of Church Security and Safety Management work with churches to help them recognize threats, repel attackers and create security policies. Their website states, “It is important that we focus on preventative solutions by having appointed armed Gatekeepers as they did in biblical times. Our Gatekeepers program has been implemented by dozens of churches that trains and places qualified volunteers at the ready to respond to these deadly situations.’

Perkins told CBS 13 that her church already has security policies and also will offer a workshop teaching church security in Sacramento in July.

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