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Greater St. Mark's Church has seen a lot of cops lately and they haven't come by to pray.
Greater St. Mark's Church has seen a lot of cops lately and they haven't come by to pray.
For the third time since the police slaying of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, St. Louis County police raided the Greater St. Mark Church property Wednesday. Church leaders have allowed community activists to use the gymnasium of an abandoned private school on church property as a first aid station for treatment of people injured by tear gas in protests against the shooting of Brown. People could also get food and water there, and community activists used it to plan protest strategy.

But all that apparently made it a special target for the cops whom one would think have enough on their plates in Ferguson not to be harassing a humanitarian operation.

Philip Agnew of Dream Defenders
Philip Agnew of Dream Defenders
Police claimed that people had been sleeping in the gym, something not allowed under city zoning and a violation of occupancy rules. According to eyewitnesses, more than 20 officers showed up to search the building just before noon Wednesday. Probably the first time in the city's history a platoon of cops has been sent to check out an alleged occupancy code violation. This time they didn't come armed with assault weapons as witnesses said has been the case in previous raids. Nor did they take away any supplies, something that observers say happened in Tuesday's raid.

A church volunteer, Marcel Williams, spoke with a local television reporter about Wednesday's raid:

“They looked like they were looking for someone in particular, just because of the depth of the search they were doing. No guns were drawn at the time or anything of that nature, but it was an intensive search,” said Williams. [...]

The church officials told News 4 nobody has been staying in the building overnight.

That wasn't the police version. In a statement issued Wednesday night, the St. Louis County Police Department said that when police searched the building: "It appeared that five to seven people [had been] sleeping in the facility but no one was present. [...] The representative stated that he would advise the individuals to leave." The statement also said there was no animosity displayed between the cops and the church representative.

In a video made after the police raid on Tuesday, Philip Agnew of the advocacy group Dream Defenders said:

"But in no uncertain terms, this was a place where this community deemed, a place where we could come and feel—what? Safe. And what they did today was tell us what? There is no safety here."
It's unclear whether the protester in this video is correct in saying the police have "effectively" shut down the operation. A woman who answered the phone at the church Thursday morning told Daily Kos that she did not know whether the safe haven is still open and referred me to St. Mark's pastor, who had not returned the call by the time this was posted.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Thu Aug 21, 2014 at 09:59 AM PDT.

Also republished by Support the Dream Defenders and Daily Kos.

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