White House Security Blocks Washington’s Episcopalian Bishop from Holding a Vigil at Her Church

“We as people of faith are here to stand with you and for you.”

The Rev. Mariann Budde speaks down the block from St. John's Church.Alex Brandon/AP

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On Monday, President Donald Trump tear-gassed an assembly of peaceful demonstrators just outside the White House so he could awkwardly struggle to hold a bible during a photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

On Wednesday, Trump-authorized federal police closed off a portion of 16th Street just north of the church, about a block from the White House, which kept clergy from being able to use their house of worship.

Bishop Mariann Budde, who had assailed Trump’s Monday visit as a “symbolic misuse of the most sacred texts of our tradition,” planned to hold a vigil in front of the church to show solidarity with protesters. But a new security perimeter, extending almost a quarter of a mile out from the front of the White House, blocked her access and forced her into the street. A crowd still gathered, but away from its envisioned location and with it being difficult for most of the crowd to see or hear, the event lost momentum.

Protesters on the scene voiced frustrations with how they believed Budde and her church have overshadowed their demonstration, saying she and the Episcopalians did not speak for them. Budde rejected this, to which they responded by asking “Then why are the cameras focused on you?”

“We as people of faith are here to stand with you and for you,” she said, before taking a seat on the street pavement and beginning a longer discussion.

 

The unanticipated conflict and conversation might not have happened had the perimeter still been configured to allow access to St. John’s.

“We felt the need to interact and talk with them,” Rev. Paula Clark, a senior official in the Washington diocese, told the Episcopal News Service, explaining why the sit down unfolded.

With the vigil abandoned, the discussion happened as a crowd built-up in front of the nearby Washington headquarters of the AFL-CIO. Protesters handed out water bottles and left snacks and other supplies for anyone to take freely as the temperature hit 90 degrees.

Other clergy members showed up in solidarity. One, Russ Whitfield, a pastor at Grace Mosaic D.C., led a satellite prayer for people unable to see and hear what was happening at the front of the crowd. “It’s a little frustrating,” Whitfield said of the vigil being pushed away from St. John’s. “But man, it’s a little chaotic right now. We’re just trying to be flexible.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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