At the church, Pastor Valerie shared the good news that the parish had reached an agreement with the City that people can continue to stay on church property, with some minor restrictions. She led the congregation in a prayer of thanks.
Speaking with her afterwards, she told me that the negotiation process with the police over this issue was "tough". The police wanted no one on the premises at any time "without a purpose", but this runs contrary to the role of the church, which extends hospitality and welcome to people and has done so for years. Many people on the street have nowhere to go, and St. Francis provides one, though it's still not enough, and won't be for the number of people who will become newly homeless over the next few months as unemployment benefits expire and other social services are cut.
Pastor Valerie was careful to say that she is not "naive"; she knows that there are sometimes conflicts among the people who come to the church grounds, but she sees this as an almost inevitable result. You "can't concentrate people without chaos," she said, adding that "all human beings do this." Too many people and too few resources will lead to people "jockeying for space". (Extend that to the national/global level, and you're talking about War itself.) The parish tries to manage this chaos, but it is challenging.
Under the new arrangement, some areas are no longer available for people to gather, and one of them was the space that was used by the day laborers, who are Latino and some of whom interpreted the deal as racist. St. Francis clearly did not intend that, but it is understandable that they might feel that way, considering the state of U.S. society.
Pastor Valerie felt that "without the support of MACG, [the situation] wouldn't have gone anywhere." 11 other pastors came with her to meet with the police, and this show of power from the community had a real impact. MACG's strategy is power: bringing together people through their institutions to face the power of government with the power of people. In the case of St. Francis vs. the City of Portland, it worked.
Keep your eye out for more news about MACG organizing during the campaign to support Measure 28, which is on the ballot for a January election.