On Pentecost Sunday, a peaceful church gathering in downtown Indianapolis to worship and pray over the city and mourn the death of George Floyd was hit with tear gas. A Facebook Live video by user Lydia Watson shows tear gas being fired into the crowd, whose members were praying in tongues and singing "Way Maker" at the time. The tear gas, fired by local police, was reportedly intended for nearby protesters but instead hit the peaceful churchgoers.
The group came from Liberty Tabernacle, a United Pentecostal church in New Whiteland, Indiana. Its pastor, Brian Lane, shared in a Facebook video that they were joined by pastors from other local churches as well.
"We felt led of the Lord to go downtown to Indianapolis," Lane says. "This is our city ... and we're responsible for this city as a church. There are hurting people in our city. There are angry people in our city. There are people that are frustrated. And it's our job as the church to be the peacemakers in our city. So we went down tonight to pray, to unify."
According to RTV6, Indianapolis Police Chief Randal Taylor has said the tear gas was used in an attempt to break up a group of vandals, but that it "spread by the wind" toward the church group. Liberty Tabernacle Pastor Brian Lane says he believes police were not targeting his group.
"At no time was anybody in any danger," Lane said that night on Facebook Live. "Never felt threatened by the police. Never felt threatened by the protesters at all. We were having an incredible, incredible event. What happened is, just so that everybody knows, a large group of protesters started coming up Meridian Street toward where we were at. There was a small—and I want to emphasize this—a small portion of protesters, a very tiny amount, that were throwing things at the police. They were trying to cause disruption, trying to cause damage to buildings. A very, very small amount. They were throwing water bottles, a few things. So the police, in order to control them, shot tear gas at them, and in doing so, the tear gas came in our direction. Of course, we were affected by that. During that time, there were protesters that came and helped some of our people out of where the tear gas canisters were being let loose."
The Facebook Live video shows a tear gas canister dropping in front of a lady in a wheelchair and spreading throughout the crowd.
Watson told WTHR, "Before we saw that gas hit, we were having an amazing time. We felt the Spirit hit that part of the circle. ... The church is against racism. We are against discrimination. We are against inequality. And we want people to know that we stand behind them in that. But we are also against violence. And we are also against disturbing the peace of our brothers and sisters."
In the Facebook Live video, Watson says she can't see and says, "Why did they throw gas over here? That's what I don't understand. That doesn't make sense to me. They see people over here peacefully and it makes no sense. Why would they do that? ... The Blood of Jesus—y'all just pray. Y'all just pray. I don't know. That was uncalled for. Because it's not 8:00. It's only 7:15. This is uncalled for."
Even after being dispersed with tear gas, one protester can be heard over a megaphone saying, "Lord God, we pray for breakthrough in this city." Gale Watson told WTHR that one of the members of their group continued to "pray even more, even in the midst of the tear gas."
In a statement posted Monday to Facebook, Liberty Tabernacle Pastor Brian Lane said, "The church is the restraining force of evil in the world. Sunday evening we prayed in the center of our city. Today I had the privilege of having a conversation with the leaders of IMPD. We discussed everything that took place last night. They asked us to continue to pray for our city. Last night was the most peaceful night in 4 days. Tonight police and protesters have been walking arm in arm. Peace is being restored to our city. Prayer works! The Gospel is powerful. This is just the beginning. We are called to be "sheep among wolves" in the world. The church cannot be absent when the world is in chaos. We are the peacemakers and the "repairs of the breech" in our city. We love the protestors! We love the police! We love all our community! We love our city!
Taylor apologized to the peaceful protesters hit by tear gas at a Monday news conference.
Lane considers the gathering to have been spiritually successful and says he plans to have more prayer gatherings.
"It was an incredible move of God," Lane says. "We took territory tonight. We prayed. We unified as the apostolic church. And that is what the devil fears: a unified, apostolic church connecting for the sake of our city, for the sake of souls, for the sake of revival."
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