PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) — Police successfully chased dozens of anarchist rioters from Holy Redeemer Church in Portland in late July 1.
The Portland Activists’ online calendar had advertised a nighttime rally in nearby Peninsula Park with the intention of “abolish SCOTUS”.
Since the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and leaving states to decide abortion laws, Catholic buildings across the country have been targeted by vandals who have cited the church‘s support for unborn children.
Holy Redeemer had been vandalized with graffiti in the spring and was mentioned by name in anarchist conversations in late June. After the Peninsula Park rally, more than one fringe group bent on vandalism marched to the Holy Redeemer.
But the police were ready, as well as the media who had alerted the public earlier in the day.
“When the anarchists approached our block, the police announced that it was an illegal assembly and blocked them as they rushed towards the church,” council member Tom Markgraf said. parish church of Holy Redeemer, whose family have been members of Holy Redeemer for over a century.
“The police have been superb. They blocked the anarchists. The lights illuminating and exposing them made many recoil. The church building was spared,” he said.
After police determined the threat had subsided shortly after midnight and returned to patrol, private security guards hired by the parochial vicar averted three early morning attempts by small groups apparently determined to wreak havoc on the church.
In the days leading up to July 1 and the planned protest, Holy Cross Father Michael Belinsky, Parish Vicar of the Holy Redeemer, worked with Portland police, private security and the Archdiocese of Portland to manage the potential violence and threat to property and people.
Parish staff and volunteers barricaded the glass doors of the church and removed from the church anything that could be used as a weapon or was flammable. Even the tabernacle and the Blessed Sacrament have been removed for security reasons.
Two retired policemen stayed with Father Belinsky, Holy Cross Father Cameron Cortens and two seminarians in the rectory the night of July 1 for protection, even drawing up an evacuation plan in case the building was breached .
Markgraf praised Father Belinsky’s leadership.
“He was steadfast in a peaceful response, securing the building, and his attitude with the press was incredible,” Markgraf told the Catholic Sentinel, Portland’s archdiocesan newspaper.
Father Belinsky kept in touch with Holy Cross Father Pat Neary, the pastor, who was in Rome for a meeting of the General Chapter of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, Archbishop of Portland Alexander K. Sample, who was out of town, and the leaders of the pastoral center. as well as the local police.
During Mass on July 3, Father Belinsky thanked the police and the many volunteers who worked to keep the church safe, including those who prayed. The priest also made a public plea for common sense.
“As a church, we are here to serve everyone, the poor, the marginalized, the unborn and those who face discrimination because of their race or if they are gay or transgender,” said Father Belinsky, seeking to point out the absurdity of the attack on a Catholic parish church. “We are here for everyone.”
Holy Redeemer School has long served a racially diverse student body. The St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank has quietly fed those in need for nearly a century, also helping people pay rent and utility bills. There is a powerful environmental justice group emerging in Holy Redeemer.
“We just need to work together within the reasonable limits of government to make this a more cooperative and compassionate society,” Fr. Belinsky said.
In Peninsula Park on the night of July 1, when about 60 anarchists had gathered, a friend of the Holy Redeemer was present and heard of attacking the Holy Redeemer.
“I felt like I was in the movie ‘High Noon’ with Gary Cooper,” said Markgraf, who stayed in the church overnight. “Will someone come and help us?”
Leaving the park, anarchists smashed the windows of a closed cafe and headed for the church. Then the police responded with what Father Belinsky called “appropriate presence and force.”
Markgraf thinks the riots have less to do with Roe v. Wade than with young men who seize the opportunity to wreak havoc and get away with it. “It’s time to stop letting them go,” he said.
The ending was good this time, Markgraf said, but he fears more citywide attacks in the future and urged city officials to get tougher.
“The city must end its year-long passive tolerance of this terrorism,” Markgraf said. “Our community is suffering, perhaps dying. If Portland wants to stem the bleeding and regain its vitality, we must fight for it. And it is worth fighting for.
“I do not tolerate vigilantism. We don’t want to go there. We need a strong and responsive police force.
Copyright © 2022 Catholic News Service/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops