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

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

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.”

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate