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New York City Church Gets Behind Ferguson Protesters

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Tensions continue to flare in Ferguson after the killing of an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed. Here in the city, people are following the developments there closely, including one woman who grew up in that Missouri town. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

At Middle Collegiate Church the message was clear: this congregation stands with the people of Ferguson, Missouri as they protest the police shooting death of Michael Brown.

For Camille Beckles, that message is personal. She grew up in the St. Louis suburb.

"There have been a lot of racial tensions, not only in Ferguson but in St. Louis period. And it's something that St. Louis residents have been familiar with for a very long time but its now come to the surface because of this unfortunate event," Beckles says.

"There are still many questions related to the death of Michael Brown, but one thing is clear. One thing is clear: that the shooting of Michael Brown was unnecessary," says Middle Collegiate Church Minister Chad Tanaka Pack.

Beckles says as she watches what's happening in her hometown, she's disturbed, but knows that gestures like the one at this church are important.

"It's been great to see people really getting behind the cause and wanting to know the truthand wanting to see justice served—not just in St. Louis, not just in Ferguson, but everywhere," Beckles says.

Here in the city, parishioners and Beckles see parallels to the case of Eric Garner—who died in NYPD custody.

"Sadly, the trend seems to continue," Beckles says. "What's happening in St. Louis, as we see with Eric Garner, is also happening in New York and it's happening across the country—Oscar Grant, Ezell Ford and Trayvon Martin."

Worshipers Sunday say that group prayer, with hands held high, is a traditional prayer position that echos the gesture of no resistance against police.

"It's good to show we're thinking about the issue. We are taking some sort of action and response—but one of peace, one of love," says one congregant.

The church is encouraging its congregants to share that image of them with their hands up on Facebook and Twitter to enhance its impact.

"I think it'd be very cool to share the message of what this church is doing everywhere," the same congregant says.

Beckels says these kind of actions have a clear meaning for her hometown.

"I think it'd be very cool to share the message of what this church is doing everywhere," another congregant says.

"New York is Ferguson and Ferguson is New York. We are all Mike Brown," says Beckles.

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