Protesters Will Return to Cathedral Basilica Sunday, This Time Without The Police Hassle

The past four Sundays hundreds of people have gathered in front of the Cathedral Basilica in the Central West End to protest St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson's $10,000 contribution to a political campaign that helped repeal Maine's recently enacted gay marriage law.

Last weekend the protesters, which included members of both the local gay rights group Show Me No Hate and the Catholic Action Network, had a little run-in with St. Louis' finest.

The cops threatened to arrest co-organizer Ed Reggi (that's his voice in the video) for violating a city ordinance that prohibits protesters from standing in a city street and holding signs that distract traffic.They also pulled over (but did not ticket) drivers who honked their horns in support of the demonstrators' signs that read "Honk for Marriage Equality."

After initial controversy -- Reggi fired off a press release telling of police "harassment and intimidation" while the Department issued a statement saying that the protesters wanted "to get arrested for the media attention" -- the two sides met Thursday afternoon, aired their grievances, and agreed to do their best to get along this weekend. How's that for holiday spirit?

"We're anticipating a peaceful protest where everybody is safe," says police spokeswoman Erica Van Ross. "There was not an apology by either side but I don't think one was asked for by either side."

"I felt we were really able to move forward," Reggi says. "Our issue is not with the police department. It's with the Archbishop."

So what's the issue again? "Archbishop Carlson and other catholic leaders are wasting precious resources," Reggi says. "There's plenty of other Catholic social justice issues -- feeding the poor, money and resources for women who have been battered -- some of those programs are in the red."

Carlson has said the money came from "a special needs fund" that could be used at the Archbishop's discretion.

Carlson wasn't the only Catholic leader from the state to contribute to the campaign in Maine. (To recap briefly: earlier this year Maine officials enacted a law permitting same sex marriage. Then opponents gathered enough signatures to take the issue to the polls. In November, 53 percent of the state voted to repeal the law.)

Archbishops in Kansas City, Jefferson City, and Cape Girardeau also kicked in money, and nationwide 45 archbishops contributed about $180,000 for the "Yes on 1" campaign. It should be noted, however, that Maine's same-sex marriage supporters raised $5.3 million to their opponents' total of about $3.3 million.

Reggi says he expects a crowd of about 150 people to brave the near-freezing temperatures in the forecast for this Sunday and peacefully assemble in front of the Cathedral on Lindell.

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