Clergy members were handing out snacks to a peaceful crowd before they were tear-gassed to clear the area for Trump's photo-op.
Clergy members expressed fear and rage after they were tear-gassed at a church across the street from the White House to help clear the area for Donald Trump's Monday night photo-op.
In a series of posts on Facebook, religious leaders described a peaceful day of handing out snacks and water to protesters until Monday evening, when military police began firing off tear gas canisters and shooting rubber bullets into the crowd to clear the area so Trump could pose with a bible in front of St. John's Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square.
Multiple media outlets reported he staged the stunt because he was frustrated about media coverage that said he was hiding out in the White House bunker over the weekend as protests over the death of George Floyd raged.
Gini Gerbasi, the rector at St. John's Episcopal Church in Georgetown, wrote in a Facebook post that she was "shaken" by what she experienced.
"WE WERE DRIVEN OFF OF THE PATIO AT ST. JOHN'S - a place of peace and respite and medical care throughout the day - SO THAT MAN COULD HAVE A PHOTO OPPORTUNITY IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH!!!" Gerbasi wrote. "PEOPLE WERE HURT SO THAT HE COULD POSE IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH WITH A BIBLE! HE WOULD HAVE HAD TO STEP OVER THE MEDICAL SUPPLIES WE LEFT BEHIND BECAUSE WE WERE BEING TEAR GASSED!!!!"
Glenna Huber, the rector at another Episcopal church in Washington, D.C., said he was "horrified" by Trump's actions.
"Just moments before we were handing out snacks and water," Huber wrote in a Facebook post. "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."
Mariann Budde, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, also condemned Trump's actions, saying they were "antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for."
"The President did not come to pray; he did not lament the death of George Floyd or acknowledge the collective agony of people of color in our nation. He did not attempt to heal or bring calm to our troubled land," Budde tweeted.
She added, "The Bible teaches us to love God and our neighbor; that all people are beloved children of God; that we are to do justice and love kindness. The President used our sacred text as a symbol of division."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.