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St. Paul police chief joins black pastors in march

Chief Todd Axtell walked in unison with faith leaders protesting the death of George Floyd while being arrested by Minneapolis police

ST PAUL, Minn —
As storm clouds gathered late Tuesday afternoon, Twin Cities black pastors lead a march with faith leaders of many stripes and colors.

“We're all united in our desire to see change,” Bernard Hebda, the white Catholic archbishop, said.

Hebda marched with Nathaniel Khaliq, a black retired firefighter and former head of the St. Paul NAACP.

“Now’s the time,” Khaliq said. “And if we don't get it done now, we're not going to ever get it done.”

Khaliq marched with Todd Axtell, the blue-uniformed St. Paul Police Chief.

“This is really a pivotal moment for policing in America,” Axtell said. “We have to start connecting at a much higher level with our community.”

Together they marched past a looted and burned University Avenue NAPA auto parts store to a looted and boarded up Target – where, as one t-shirt put it, the church left the building.

Surrounded by a crowd of several hundred people, including rabbis, priests and imams, Rev. James Thomas of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church drew applause when he evoked the power of God.

“God is on our side and he's greater than any white supremist organization that ever walked the face of this earth, and he's greater than even Donald Trump,” Thomas said as he handed over the microphone to the next speaker.

With pulses of lightning and thunder in the distance, Presiding Elder Stacey Smith of St. James AME Church brought the march and prayer service to a close.

“Father we need you to come in like a mighty rushing wind,” Smith said. “Oh, a storm is a brewing.”

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