Rev. Gini Gerbasi, who was on the scene when D.C. police violently cleared out a peaceful protest to clear the way for President Donald Trump’s church photo-op, lambasted the president on Tuesday for using the Bible “as a prop,” calling it “absolute sacrilege.”
Gerbasi, the one-time rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church who was helping organizers hand out water during Monday’s protest of George Floyd’s death, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that it had been a “peaceful protest” until police acted first and deployed munitions.
“I was literally helping wipe away tears in people’s eyes and tried to tend to them and help them on the grounds and suddenly the police were pushing us back,” she noted. “And the people were dropping to the ground, afraid.”
Explaining that she and other clergy were driven off St. John’s grounds by gas and police in riot gear, Gerbasi said that she became incensed when she discovered that they were cleared so the president could pose with a Bible at the church, which had suffered fire damage in an earlier protest.
“So I was already stunned and shocked and deeply, deeply offended that they had taken what had become holy ground,” she sighed, adding: “And literally desecrated it, turned it into not a metaphorical battleground but a literal battleground with those officers and heavily armed—and just the aggression and the hostility.”
When she found out that the president had walked over for a “political stunt,” Gerbasi said that “‘offended’ hardly begins to describe how I feel.”
“It was a sacrilege for all people of all faiths, faiths that are grounded in peacefulness and loving compassion, reconciliation, wholeness, healing, forgiveness,” she continued. “Peace, love, compassion. And to push innocent people out, and people who, by the way, were protesting the violent treatment by the government, was sickening.”
Reiterating that it was an “absolute sacrilege” for Trump to use both holy ground and the Bible as a “prop,” Gerbasi said she was “heartbroken” thinking about the “images of people running and crying and dropping to the ground because they thought police were shooting real bullets instead of rubber bullets.”
Gerbasi isn’t the only clergy member who has blasted the president over the police action that Attorney General William Barr reportedly ordered. Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde, the diocese of Washington, D.C., criticized Trump on Monday for using “one of our churches as a prop.”
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, meanwhile, attacked Budde for her remarks, grumbling that it wasn’t “her church” or “her Bible.”