PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A local Catholic church has boarded up its windows and canceled a prayer event ahead of an expected demonstration in Peninsula Park Friday night.
Father Michael Belinsky, Associate Pastor of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, told KOIN 6 News his parish had planned to hold a prayer and vigilance event at the church Friday evening with the hopes of keeping the planned demonstration peaceful but said they were forced to cancel the gathering after they received warning from police of potential violence.
“It’s distressing, it’s saddening and frustrating,” Father Michael said. “Simply because we are trying to respond to what’s happening in the world and in society, and the fact that people are put at risk because of what they believe and who they are is a very frightening thing.”
He told KOIN 6 News the church, which is only a few blocks away from Peninsula Park, had been targeted by similar groups of demonstrators in the past and had decided to hold the prayer event to put a face to the parish and pray for peace.
And while Father Michael Belinsky said the decision to cancel Friday’s prayer event was frustrating, he told KOIN 6 News it was an easy call to make, as the safety of the parish comes first.
“It was not difficult when you look at the risk,” he said “The unfortunate fact is that we are a parish of limited means and resources. We help the poor and we serve to educate Catholic and non-Catholic students of all races and backgrounds, so any damage to property means we have to outweigh money and funnel resources away from programs and activities which serve the people in order to pay for security and repairs.”
Although Portland Police did not want to reveal specifics in regards to their tactical plans for the evening, they said they have increased patrols and have remained in close contact with church leaders at Holy Redeemer.
“The Portland Police Bureau is aware of a planned gathering and march Friday night in the Piedmont Neighborhood,” the bureau stated, “We cannot predict what behavior will occur and when, but we will work to keep the community informed. Individuals who engage in violent activity or property destruction will be investigated and are subject to arrest and prosecution.”
PPB continued, “To prepare for any potential violence at this event, PPB will be adding resources, but we will not be discussing tactical planning specifics. We will utilize all available resources to maximize our ability to respond to criminal behavior at public gatherings while also responding to calls for service across the City… We ask community members to call and report criminal activity when they see it, whether it is related to gun violence, public disorder, or any criminal activity.”
Police urge the public to report any crimes related to the event by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or contacting the non-emergency line at 503-823-3333.
The planned demonstration comes after similar anti-Supreme Court protests left businesses and property in the Hollywood District vandalized just last weekend.
Father Michael said he had the following message for potential vandals, “I would like to have them take off their mask or their helmet, sit down face-to-face and let’s talk about this.”
He continued, “Let’s talk about what you believe, what you hear, what you think and let me tell you what I believe, what I do, and what I think and why. To have a debate, an exchange of ideas in a respectful, civil way.”