February 22, 2023 | LAFocus Staff
As the March 8 trial date of suspended City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas rapidly approaches, the South Los Angeles Clergy for Public Accountability (SLACPA), a network of pastors and ministers in South Los Angeles churches representing over 50,000 members, is organizing “An Ecumenical and Interfaith Service In Solidarity supporting Mark Ridley-Thomas.” The event will call on the power of each participating faith traditions’ demand for truth and justice to prevail at Councilman Ridley-Thomas’ trial, which starts with jury selection on Tuesday, March 7, 2023.
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2021 for alleged criminal wrongdoing during his service on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2017. These allegations are unrelated to his tenure on the City Council.
“Mark’s personal faith is a cornerstone of his servant leadership and South Los Angeles clergy have directly witnessed his tireless efforts to empower our beloved community,” stated Rev. Dr. Norman S. Johnson, convener of SLACPA. “He doesn’t just show up to fellowship with us around election day. From health care delivery to homelessness, constitutional policing, public transit, economic development, local hiring and the fight for a livable wage — Mark has always been about addressing the most pressing needs of his constituents.”
“We want this expression of solidarity to fortify Mark and his family and reinforce their resolve as he faces one of the most significant challenges to his 30-plus year public service life,” added Rev. Dr. Mary S. Minor, Pastor of Brookins-Kirkland AME Church.
“Mark Ridley-Thomas is one of the finest illustrations of what an elected official in a democratic society should be,” stated Rev. Dr. James M. Lawson, Jr., the iconic civil rights leader and Pastor Emeritus of Holman United Methodist Church without equivocation. “His trial is a trial for all of us who want racial justice and freedom.”
“The impact of this situation reverberates well beyond Councilmember Ridley-Thomas’ effort to exonerate himself. The racism articulated by then City Council President Nury Martinez and the others we heard in that secret recording was an impetus to remove him from office, weaken Black political power, deny voting rights, due process and the presumption of innocence, nullify election results. It speaks to the pernicious effect of racially motivated animosity and a level of injustice that could easily be visited upon any Black leader,” noted Rev. Dr. Kenneth Walden, Senior Pastor Holman United Methodist Church and Service host. “That’s another reason we stand in solidarity with and in support of Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas.”
“Each faith tradition represented places a premium on the values of truth and justice. We will pray that these values prevail, and that Ridley-Thomas receives a fair trial by a jury of his peers that has not been influenced by the pernicious public attempts of his political adversaries to punish him before he has had his day in court,” said retired Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs, civil rights and anti-racist leader.