Children perched in tree branches and hundreds of mostly maskless worshippers spanned Seattle’s Meridian Avenue for a street protest and praise event Monday.
Organizers had slated the Let Us Worship event for Gas Works Park, but the City of Seattle closed the park in advance of the event.
Seattle Parks and Recreation posted security guards outside Gas Works and also large red signs that declared: “Park Temporarily Closed.”
The show went on.
The revival event — headed by California worship leader Sean Feucht — took to the closed street instead. A drum set and amplifiers blared some 10 feet from a bulldozer blocking the intersection.
Feucht, who has held nearly two dozen events across the country — including one last month that brought hundreds of people, many not wearing masks or social distancing, to Cal Anderson Park — said the Gas Works closure represented discrimination against Christians.
“Politicians can write press releases. They can make threats. They can shut down parks. They can put up fences,” Feucht told the crowd, adding that they couldn’t stop worship. “We’re here as citizens of America and citizens of the Kingdom of God and we won’t be silenced.”
Seattle Parks and Recreation did not specifically cite Feucht’s event in closing the park, but issued a statement saying Gas Works would be closed “due to anticipated crowding that could impact the public health of residents.”
In remarks to media, Feucht said critics of his events and of Christian gatherings don’t raise the same issues when it comes to other protests.
“They don’t say the same thing about the Black Lives Matter movement. They don’t say the same thing about antifa,” Feucht said. “A lot of those guys have been destroying things.”
Worshippers said they were seeking hope, comfort and human connection — and also to make the point that Christianity plays an important role in Seattle culture.
“Community and faith is an important part of this city,” said Todd Manning of Bothell. “Part of what love requires is standing up boldly and saying the community of faith is strong.”
Jenny Pund, of Puyallup, said the pandemic had left people wanting.
“People need hope, especially right now during the craziness of life,” said Pund. “The government is not going to give you hope, seemingly. Jesus is the answer.”
Few in the crowd wore masks, even as people gathered shoulder to shoulder.
Some said they viewed wearing a mask as a personal choice and took comfort in the fact that the event was outside.
“I brought a mask with me. I think it’s responsible if it gets crowded,” Pund said.
Manning also carried a mask and asked some he interacted with if they’d prefer he wore it.
“I’m not fearful of it myself, but I want to be respectful of other people,” he said, adding that he thought the lawn of Gas Works Park might have allowed for more social distancing and a nice breeze to create a safer environment.
That the park remained closed for Labor Day and not other parts of the weekend felt “antagonistic,” Manning said.
Some were less pleased that the event brought together so many maskless people.
A woman named Jade held a cardboard sign reading: “Please wear a mask. I have some.”
Jade, who declined to give her last name, said she was empathetic to those who wanted to gather and be with others, but frustrated that people would visit Seattle and not take seriously the pandemic, adding that their actions prevented the use of a public space for city residents.
“I’m trying to ask people to be good visitors to our city and keep people safe,” Jade said.
Jade said she had brought 50 masks, and in 20 minutes, no one had requested one.