Statement of Kemah Washington

Father Paul Washington Committee, Church of the Advocate (Philadelphia, PA)

Your Honor, Being arrested January was never my intention. I did not go to be a nuisance nor did  go to engage in any tumultuous behavior  but I hear the cries from our children and knew I had to react to their cries, I knew I had to stand up and be a voice for those who have been killed or maimed by gun violence. 

There were 12 of us who were arrested, that number has a special significance to us and to all religious people. There were 12 before us who also answered the call, "Whom shall I send, who will go for us?" Each of us answered just as Isaiah did, "here I am, send me." So we are not unlike the body of 12 that served our Lord. We are here today because we serve our Lord and have been obedient to His will.

This day is very dear to me. It is my dad's birthday; he would have been 88 this day. My Dad was Father Paul Washington. I could talk about his service to the community and to all of humankind but I only have a few minutes to try to convey to you my journey to Colosimo's gun shop. I will simply say that he loved life, he loved everyone unconditionally and he loved the Lord. He never turned his back on anyone, he helped anyone and everyone. One person commented to me, "I heard your Dad speak once and when I did I heard the voice of God. What a man of extreme decency." Chuck Stone a former Tuskegee Airman, an accomplished journalist from the Philadelphia Daily  News, one whom 75 people surrendered to rather than to the police said, "To Fr. Paul Washington, the world will always be his pasture. As one of his sheep, I will be forever grateful for his gift of love that summoned me to a renewal of my life."

My life was nurtured by his passion to help and guide those who were lost and broken, my principles were shaped by his love and compassion to those "other sheep," the ones who society shuns and looks down on. I myself have served our community since I was a teenager. I was blessed by God because he has given to me that same compassionate heart and soul. It is a gift from God and am so very indebted to Him for the compassion that resides in me. Like all other blessings there are always two sides, the other cries out when a child is murdered or a mother is shot and killed. My soul weeps when I see the lives of innocent young adults being snatched away, it weeps when I see those who have  been maimed, paralyzed, those who are now vegetables because of gun violence . When my soul is troubled like this it is then that what I am doing is reaffirmed.

I talk to a lot of young adults just to trying to encourage them, to see how they are, to see how much pain they are in. I talked with one young lady who was getting ready to graduate from high school. I asked her if she was going to college. She said no, I'm going into the service. Now I think serving one's country is gallantry at its finest but I had to know why. We talked about the war in Iraq  and I asked her,  aren't you worried that you might get killed? She replied, "I'd rather die there than die in the streets." I talked with another young man who said he lost ten of his friends to gun violence and one died in his arms.  I asked another young man who was on a path to destruction why, why do you do these things? He said, I probably won't live to see 25 anyway, I'm having my fun now. When I hear their stories and feel the pain they are in, my soul tells me not only that it's right to do something about gun violence but it tells me I must do something about gun violence.

Fr Miller, my brother and I had been involved with many anti-violence and anti handgun events and programs, so when he said there was an interfaith group who wanted to address gun violence we jumped on board and joined Heeding God's Call. After many meetings we decided that we should rally around some important issue, one that would help to change one or some of the elements that lead to gun violence. We decided to look at gun shops and the Responsible Retailer Partnership Agreement. After some research we were led to Colosimo's Gun shop. We met with Mr. Colosimo and asked him to sign the agreement and he refused. We marched to Colosimo and asked him again, he yet again refused and that led us to be arrested and led us to this day.

Your, our police officers, our religious leaders and everybody else here all seek and pray for the same things; peace, love, understanding and an end to the mindless gun violence that is tearing apart our families, our lives, our communities and our nation.

Gun violence is a battle that I will continue to fight and I pray all of us, our politicians, our law enforcement officials, our neighbors and yes, Mr. Colosimo included can all work together to put an end to gun violence.