Local churches to offer buildings as sanctuaries after grand jury announcement

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Several local churches are offering their buildings as sanctuaries if protests follow the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case.

When protests broke out after Vonderitt Myers Junior was killed last month in an alleged shootout with an off-duty St. Louis police officer, Rev. Teresa Danieley at St. John`s Episcopal Church joined them in the streets to pray, only to discover people also needed a place to get help, so at midnight she opened the church doors.

‘When I was on that corner, everybody that was there was my parishioner; police, protester, resident, and I wanted everybody to be safe,’ Rev. Danieley said.

And that experience is partly why, when St. John`s was approached by Metropolitan Congregations United to be designated a sanctuary for future protests, the pastor and the board said yes.

‘I think if anyone needs a place of rest or a place to warm up or a place to get a band-aid or a place to talk to a therapist, I would hope that if we are needed, we will be able to serve in that capacity,’ Rev. Danieley said.

She says there were also be legal advisors and street medics at the church if needed.

Many also consider a sanctuary to be a police-free zone, and St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar agrees, with some exceptions.

‘We honor that all the time, it is no different than your home or your business is, if you call the police there would be a reason to enter,’ Belmar said. ‘If there was some extraordinary exigent circumstances there would be a reason for law enforcement to enter, or if there would be a search warrant that would be the case,’ he said.

On Tuesday, a business on South Grand announced on its Facebook page should there be protests in that area, it will be also open as a safe haven for people to charge phones or get warm.  Soon after that posting, the business was flooded with ugly and threatening phone calls.

As for the designated sanctuary churches, a list has not yet been released but organizers say they expect to have one in Ferguson, two in Clayton and two in the Shaw neighborhood.

As for St. John`s decision to be designated a sanctuary church, the pastor says it`s really no big deal.

‘I feel we are a sanctuary all the time,’ she said.

‘I don`t know what else we are supposed to be.’

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