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Improbably, the backstory of that vicious barking clown’s latest cheap stunt may be even more despicable than the tawdry Bible-brandishing con itself. Not only did Barr, allegedly this country’s chief law enforcement official, order the egregiously illegal violent assault against people exercising their Constitutional rights;it turns out that when police stormed St. John’s Church, they also ejected and tear-gassed a group of Episcopal clergy and volunteer laypeople there to support protesters. According to the Rev. Gini Gerbasi, rector at another St. Johns Church in nearby Georgetown, she and about 20 other priests and volunteers arrived at St. John’s earlier to serve as a “peaceful presence,” seeking to “create a place of respite” on the church patio by offering water, snacks, hand sanitizer and eye wash to demonstrators. As they were packing up before the 7 p.m curfew, a shaken Gerbasi wrote, police began rounding up protesters in LaFayette Park. As later became woefully clear, the thin-skinned Trump, upset people had mocked his weekend cowering in a bunker, had decided he “wanted the visual” of pointlessly clutching a Bible. Gerbasi, in her clerical garb, saw police approach: “I’m there in my little pink sweater in my collar, my gray hair up, my reading glasses on…and police, in their riot gear with their black shields and the whole bit, began to push people from the church patio.” Those around her began coughing and crying from tear gas, rubber bullets, the sound of explosions. She and the others fled; a few blocks away, she checked her phone and saw Trump preening at the church. “That’s what it was for – to clear the patio so that man could stand (there) with a Bible,” said Gerbasi. “They turned holy ground into a battleground.”
Multiple accounts from other clergy told similar stories. One unbowed priest wrote that, thanks to her recent trauma, she’s now “a force to be reckoned with” – which quickly became a hashtag. Even before news of the gassing, many religious figures were already outraged by what Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of D.C.’s Episcopal Diocese, called Trump’s “abuse of the spiritual tools and symbols of our traditions and of our sacred space…He didn’t come to church to pray. He didn’t come to offer condolences to those who are grieving. He didn’t come to commit to healing our nation” as befitted a leader. Raged Robert Hendrickson, rector at a Tucson Episcopal Church, “This is an awful man, waving a book he hasn’t read, in front of a church he doesn’t attend, invoking laws he doesn’t understand, against fellow Americans he sees as enemies.” Perhaps the best religious shade of the day was thrown by pastors of color who gathered at St. Johns to call for solidarity with #DCProtests and an end to police brutality. “God is always on the side of the oppressed,” declared one. “Mr. President, I promise your hands are too small to box with God.” As many thousands across Europe took up their call, the man whose murder sparked the upheaval also resurfaced to join them. A Christianity Today article describes George Floyd, aka “Big Floyd,” as “a person of peace,” a devout church goer, community leader and mentor in Houston’s historically black, poor Third Ward who worked to bring outside ministries there, turned his life around, and urged others to do the same. Floyd often spoke of breaking the cycle of violence he saw on the street, urging young, tough, lost blacks, “C’mon home, man.” In the end, he warned, “It’s gonna be you and God.” May he rest in power.