Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Church Parking Lots and Protests

On Saturday (April 27th) my wife and I participated in a free boxes of food distribution in Brooklyn Center.  We were responding to the call from Twin Cities labor groups to help pass out food at Brooklyn Center High School (I wish clergy could join labor groups as allies for affiliation, kind of like Third Order Franciscans).  Since the killing of Daunte Wright many of the local food shelves and nonprofit organizations have been closed due to the nightly protests (the protests have dwindled for the moment).  

This was my first visit to Brooklyn Center since the killing.  I had watched the protests online (Unicorn Riot and Andrew Mercado provide live coverage on YouTube and Facebook).  I could not believe the amount of tear gas and pepper spray law enforcement unleashed on the protesters.  You could tell that the protests were near apartment complexes, but when I was there in person I was shocked how close they are.  I couldn't believe the massive amount of force that was trampling through a residential neighborhood.  

Late one night, around midnight I could tell the protesters were all retreating to one locale, the parking lot of Lutheran Church of the Master (Missouri Synod, if you are curious).  For the first few nights law enforcement met the protesters on the street, in front of the police station, and "moved" them away from the station.  The protesters were forced into the apartment parking lots, strip mall parking lots and into the parking lot of Lutheran Church of the Master .  

Law enforcement sought to arrest everyone who was out past curfew, but there was one location they could not pursue the protesters: the parking lot of Lutheran Church of the Master . The parking lot was, literally, "sanctuary."  A judge would not issue a warrant to arrest the protesters as long as they were on church property!  It was like a scene from the European Middle Ages: refugees fleeing from the law, entering a cathedral and declaring "SANCTUARY!"  

If you know me, you know that I am not a fan of church parking lots; especially when they are used solely as the temporary storage of cars.  But I am a fan of church parking lots that are multi-use centers. But I never thought I would witness church parking lots as sanctuary zones.   

Near 38th and Chicago, George Floyd Square, there are two churches: Worldwide Outreach for Christ (kitty-corner from the site of George Floyd's murder) and Calvary Lutheran Church (one block south of George Floyd Square). 

Over the past 300+ days both congregations have used their parking lots in ways other than the temporary storage of vehicles.  Worldwide Outreach for Christ has used their parking lot for worship services, location for public addresses or news conferences, cookouts, medical services, & etc.  Calvary Lutheran Church used their parking lot for food, clothing, and voter registration drives, gathering spot for protesters and respite.  

These parking lots will continue to be locales of importance as the three other police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd goes to trial and as the officer involved in the killing of Daunte Wright goes to trial.  It is my hope that these churches and faith communities will join the protesters in chanting, 

Whose Streets?  Our Streets!  

That streets (and parking lots) are avenues of life, not death.  

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