- Two priests at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington D.C say that they and other clergy members were forcibly expelled from church grounds for President Donald Trump’s photo op.
- Before D.C.’s 7 p.m. curfew, law enforcement used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear a crowd of peaceful demonstrators in the area so that Trump could take a photo with a Bible in front of the church.
- Two Rectors from other Episcopal Churches, the Rev. Glenna Huber and Rev. Gini Gerbasi, wrote that they were handing out snacks and water to protesters all day before police came to clear the area.
- Gerbasi wrote that she and other volunteers were tear-gassed, writing, “we were literally DRIVEN OFF of the St. John’s, Lafayette Square patio with tear gas and concussion grenades.”
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Two priests who were at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington D.C’s Lafayette Square say that they and other clergy members were forcibly expelled from church grounds for President Donald Trump’s photo op.
Shortly before D.C.’s 7 p.m. curfew, law enforcement used tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades to clear a crowd of peaceful demonstrators who had gathered in Lafayette Park so that Trump could walk to the church, which had been damaged by fire the night before, and take photos holding a Bible in front of the building.
Here's the moment where police fired teargas into a crowd of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park, just minutes before Trump's address in the Rose Garden. pic.twitter.com/KPjxMKdDyx
— Cameron Peters (@jcameronpeters) June 1, 2020
Oh my God. It’s not even curfew yet and law enforcement (who are stationed in a square around the White House) have started “clearing” peaceful protesters with flash bangs and tear gas. #dcprotest pic.twitter.com/HubGjwU4aM
— Ellie Hall (@ellievhall) June 1, 2020
The demonstrators in the park gathered to peacefully protest police brutality and the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in an encounter with police in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25.
In a lengthy Facebook post and in an interview with Religious News Service, the Reverend Gini Gerbasi, a Rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown who was at the Lafayette location on Monday, said that in addition to peaceful protestors in the square, clergy members inside and on the church patio were subject to tear gas and forced out of the area for the president’s photoshoot.
Rev. Glenna Huber, the Rector at the Church of the Epiphany who was also at St. John’s Lafayette the day of the protest, told the Religious News Service that she exited the area and left the church grounds before most of the tear gassing.
“I’m horrified,” Rev. Huber later wrote on Facebook. “Just moments before we were handing out snacks and water. There was some men singing on the steps. People were chanting and peacefully assembling. I left as the National Guard arrived. They sprayed tear gas. I was gone before the rubber bullets. And then the President spoke.”
Gerbasi told RNS that she and about 20 other clergy members and volunteers from around the area came to the patio of St. John’s Lafayette as a “peaceful presence” to hand out water, snacks, hand sanitizer, and medical supplies to protesters.
“Friends, I am OK, but I am, frankly shaken,” Rev. Gerbasi said in her Facebook post, explaining that she and other clergy members, along with a team of medics affiliated with the Black Lives Matter Movement, were on the church’s patio all day.
She said that “around 6:15 or 6:30″ P.M, the police started really pushing protestors off of H Street, the street between the church and Lafayette Park, and ultimately, the White House” before tear-gassing the crowd.
“The police in their riot gear were literally walking onto the St. John’s, Lafayette Square patio with these metal shields, pushing people off the patio and driving them back. People were running at us as the police advanced toward us from the other side of the patio,” Gabresi wrote, adding that she and the medical volunteers grabbed as many supplies as they could while coughing from the gas and trying to get out of the area.
“We were literally DRIVEN OFF of the St. John’s, Lafayette Square patio with tear gas and concussion grenades and police in full riot gear,” she added, describing being pushed back “with SO MANY concussion grenades – back to K street.”
“I am shaken, not so much by the taste of tear gas and the bit of a cough I still have, but by the fact that that show of force was for a PHOTO OPPORTUNITY,” Gerbasi wrote. “The patio of St. John’s, Lafayette square had been HOLY GROUND today. A place of respite and laughter and water and granola bars and fruit snacks. But that man turned it into a BATTLE GROUND first, and a cheap political stunt second.”
She ended her post the message: “I am OK. But I am now a force to be reckoned with.”