Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democratic candidate for Senate in Georgia, used his position at the head of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church to attack police officers and claim “spiritual wickedness” allowed one officer to escape charges in the 2014 death of Michael Brown.
In a series of 2015 sermons first reported by Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Monday night, Warnock used the pulpit to spread fear among black churchgoers that the police represent a “danger” to their children. The recently unearthed sermons come as racially-charged protests have swept the United States, and subsequent riots have cost billions of dollars in estimated damage.
Warnock is the leading competitor to challenge GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who has largely been distracted by a challenge to her seat from the right from GOP Georgia Rep. Doug Collins. In an apparent bid to force other Democrats out of the race, Warnock’s campaign released internal polling numbers on Monday showing Warnock in second place, trailing Loeffler 25% to 29%. Collins came in third at 19%.
When asked if Warnock stood by his 2015 comments, a Warnock campaign spokesman directed The Daily Wire to a June 29 article in which Warnock came out in favor of “responsibly fund[ing] law enforcement” rather than defunding the police as many in the Black Lives Matter movement have called for.
“We need to reimagine policing and reimagine the relationships between law enforcement and communities,” Warnock said. “We certainly need to demilitarize the police so we can rebuild the trust between the police and the community.”
During a March 8, 2015, sermon, Warnock addressed a report released by then-Attorney General Eric Holder four days prior to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, by Darren Wilson, then a police officer with the Ferguson, Missouri, police department. Holder had announced on March 4 “that the facts do not support the filing of criminal charges against Officer Darren Wilson in this case. Michael Brown’s death, though a tragedy, did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of Officer Wilson.”
Warnock compared unrest that broke out in Ferguson over Brown’s death to Rev. Martin Luther King’s 1965 civil rights march through Selma, Alabama. “The road to Ferguson goes through Selma,” Warnock said. He continued:
Can I tell you what spiritual wickedness looks like in high places? I know you read the Bible, but if you want to know what spiritual wickedness in high places looks like, you need to read the attorney general’s report this week on Ferguson because that is spiritual wickedness in high places. It is a report that talks about the use of police force and police violence to crush the poor, to crush the most vulnerable citizens of a small town, all of these little municipalities all within the county of St. Louis because America has not yet beaten the demon of racism.
He went on to say that the police officers in Ferguson that cracked down on riots that scarred the city in the wake of Brown’s death acted with “a kind of gangster and thug mentality.”
“So in Ferguson, police power showing up in a kind of gangster and thug mentality. You know, you can wear all kinds of colors and be a thug. You can sometimes wear the colors of the state and behave like a thug,” Warnock said.
The full sermon can be found here. (relevant portion begins around 1:28:00)
Later that year in a June 14 sermon, Warnock suggested that cases of police brutality are widespread and suggest a deeper, systemic problem with U.S. law enforcement. Warnock also suggested that racism in the United States is a significant obstacle faced by black people. “The problem is black bodies in the public space. That’s the problem,” he said, citing it as a reason for police brutality.
Warnock said that law enforcement represented a “danger” to black children, apparently referencing a June 2015 incident where a Texas police officer wrestled to the ground a black teen girl in a bikini at a pool party. He said:
We are seeing the mean and ugly clutches of America’s prison industrial complex, and we are witnessing each week the ways in which its pernicious tentacles make their way into our neighborhoods and it doesn’t matter what kind of hood you live in. There is somebody always trying to steal our joy. Doesn’t matter whether you live in Ferguson or New York, Baltimore or McKinney, Texas. It’s children’s day and we got to lift up our children because our children are in trouble, and it’s often those who are sworn to protect who cause more trouble. Not everybody, but did it not break your heart, it broke mine, to see an officer of the law manhandle a 14-year-old child in a bikini? It hearkened back to the ugliest days down south and up south. And if you’re not careful it can steal your joy when you think about the fact that our children are in danger, and it doesn’t matter whether they are male or female, whether they live in the Bronx or a gated community, whether they are wearing a hood or a bikini.
The full sermon can be found here. (relevant portion begins around 1:12:00)
In a Nov. 29 sermon, Warnock said that the United States has a relatively high prison population compared to the rest of the world and that the high number of prisoners is a direct result of harsh police tactics. He said:
Don’t ever talk about police brutality without talking about America’s prison industrial complex. The land of the free is the incarceration capital of the world. When you think about the fact that America still warehouses 25% of the world’s prisoners, we shouldn’t be surprised when we see police officers act like bullies on the street. You don’t get to be the incarceration capital of the world by playing nice on the streets. You have to work for that distinction.
The full sermon can be found here. (relevant portion begins around 36:00)
National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Nathan Brand slammed Warnock’s past comments in a statement, saying, “Democrat Raphael Warnock’s radical views about the men and women keeping Georgia communities safe are completely out-of-touch with the principles and priorities of Georgia families. To refer to police officers as ‘thugs,’ ‘bullies,’ and ‘gangsters’ shows that Warnock is in line with the most extreme elements of the Democratic Party that are funding his campaign.”