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Seattle Protests: As The Cops Withdrew, Clergy Showed Up

Protesters occupying Seattle’s “autonomous zone,” a portion of the city’s bohemian (and high-income) Capitol Hill district spread over several city blocks, have managed to keep police and politicians out for almost two weeks.

But they haven’t kept out God. Tucked into the scenery, among the “no cop co-ops” tents, a massive street art project of 19-foot-high letters spelling out “Black Lives Matter” and a memorial site filled with flickering candles, is a folding table with a sign taped to it that reads “interfaith clergy” in purple letters.

The purple, says an ad hoc group of ministers who staff it each evening, is for repentance on the part of whites toward blacks. Although not by design, all the clergy who man the table happen to be white. They offer spiritual counsel to protesters and gawkers alike.

The effort was crafted by a trio that sounds like the opening line of a bar joke: a Unitarian minister, a Reconstructionist rabbi and a United Methodist activist.

The Rev. Cecilia Kingman, 53, pastor of the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Congregation, dates the effort back to the riots of June 5–7 when police threw blast balls and pepper spray at protesters after they lobbed bottles, rocks and even fireworks at officers. She and John Helmiere, pastor of Valley & Mountain, a United Methodist congregation in south Seattle, were alarmed.

By Monday, June 8, they had to do something.

“Those three nights over the weekend were getting more traumatic,” Kingman said. “They were teargassing young people. There was no religious leadership there that we could see.”

Read more at Religion Unplugged

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