“I think it’s time for the people to get off their knees and start making changes. Unfortunately, we’ve prayed and offered compassion for too long without action.”

This was the call to action from Father Rusty Smith, executive director of
St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, a day shelter that serves Albuquerque by
assisting the homeless with services and therapy designed to create self-sufficiency. The occasion was a candlelight vigil held Sunday June 15 on the 3 month anniversary of the murder of James Boyd, a homeless man suffering from mental illness, by the Albuquerque Police Department. The videotaped killing outraged and saddened the people of Albuquerque and beyond, and set in motion a new and rising tide of community organizing to demand justice for all victims of police violence and harassment. A broad coalition of religious leaders spoke at the memorial, representing the Unitarian and Catholic churches, Islam, and Judaism.

Michelle Maters of Albuquerque attended the vigil as a way of acknowledging the value of James Boyd’s life. “We need to push [the police department] and hold them responsible,” she said.

Michelle’s husband Don added “The latest attack on our health care system shows that the commitment to caring for those most in need in our society is totally lacking. We can always come up with the money for more wars. We can always come up with the money for more prisons. Prisons, by default, have become our mental health treatment centers. It’s criminal that we criminalize being homeless and having some sort of mental problem…”

It’s time to take action! Let’s heed the words of Father Smith: “Don’t feel sorry. Sorry is too easy.”