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ST. LOUIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholics and Christians united in prayer to defend the namesake statue of St. Louis as a mob of Black Lives Matter (BLM) members threatened them with taunts, fists and sticks.
On Saturday, Christians and Rosary-praying Catholics tried keeping the famous statue called the Apotheosis of St. Louis from being desecrated and torn down in the city's famous Forest Park while various BLM members heckled them.
"It's comin' down no matter how much you all pray," one man yelled.
Another woman in the mob mocked the Catholics, who were praying the Rosary.
"Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah," she sneered.
One of the apparent Catholic defenders, Walker More, posted a video showing himself encircled by a group of rioters, knocked to the ground and attacked with a long, heavy stick. In the background, a woman is heard screaming.
"No! No!" she cried.
More tweeted, "That's me on the ground. That stick missed my face by inches."
In More's Twitter thread, one user suggested that More should carry a gun.
He responded, "I do. That's the only thing that got them to back off after I got up off the ground."
Claiming to be "unapologetically Catholic," More also tweeted, "I forgave them minutes after it happened. I truly hope and pray that they all repent and find God."
The Rev. Stephen Schumacher, a priest with the St. Louis archdiocese, tried to give the mob some historical context. But they were having none of it. The mob organizer, Umar Lee, ultimately demanded that the priest hand over the mic.
The first sign the statue was in trouble came with the appearance of a petition calling for it to be removed and the city's name to be changed. Lee, a Muslim and political activist, launched the petition. Some 700 people have signed it.
When Jim Hoft, a political blogger based in St. Louis, put out a call for people to gather at the statue for prayer at noon on Saturday, Lee seized the opportunity for a confrontation. He put out a counter-call, using provocative language.
Lee characterized the gathering of Christians as "white nationalists," "Trump supporters" and "those on the alt-right such as those who held the infamous and tragic rally in Charlottesville."
Lee told Church Militant that he considered members of the Tea Party to be white nationalists.
"They hounded President Obama," he said. He was then asked why he felt the need to organize a counterprotest.
Lee responded, "We are there to make our voices heard."
The counterprotest flier claims popular St. Louis restaurateur Ben Poremba co-sponsored the petition to remove the statue. Poremba, however, denies being a cosponsor and says he was only a signatory.
Church Militant asked Poremba whether he planned to attend the protest. The Israeli Poremba affirmed that he would not be participating.
He confessed, "I admire that statue" but also noted that he cannot overlook the statue's history.
"My interest is in a discourse of the history of St. Louis," he said.
Most of the objections to the statue have centered on the reign of King Louis IX. Protesters note the king led two Crusades and claim that he persecuted Jews.
Another perspective on the statue was found on Facebook. According to Thomas Keller, "The statue was not put there out of piety or to honor the 13th-century French king and Catholic saint.￼ The statue was erected ... near the entrance to the 1904 World's Fair to symbolize the city."
Keller offers this explanation:
The statue was not made by Catholics for Catholics. Instead it is a secular image representing the emergence of the city of St. Louis as an industrial and economic power at the beginning of the 20th century. The 'Apotheosis' or 'ascendancy to greatness' or more literally 'to be made godlike' is represented by the horse and rider proudly striding forward into the future just as the city of St. Louis [was claiming its place in history].
While Keller offers an important insight, the "rider" is no ordinary Crusader. He is wearing a crown, a clear reference to the French king and saint, which forces an examination of his record as a monarch.
On Sunday, the archdiocese of St. Louis joined the battle to save the statue with a statement in its support. Explaining the position of Catholics, the statement said, "St. Louis is an example of an imperfect man who strived to live a life modeled after the life of Jesus Christ."
The statement went on to detail why the French king was canonized:
King Louis IX's renowned work in charity helped elevate him to sainthood. His daily suppers were shared with numerous beggars, whom he invited to the royal table. On many evenings, he would not let them leave before he washed their feet. He personally paid to feed more than 100 poor Parisians every day. His care for the sick was equally moving; St. Louis frequently ministered to lepers. He also created a number of hospitals, including one for the blind and another for ex-prostitutes.
In response, Lee tweeted, "This statement is inadequate, ineffectual and hurtful. It does nothing to address the antisemitism and Islamophobia of Louis IX. Nor does it address the issue that local Catholics are in alliance with white nationalists and the alt-right in defense of the statue. Take it down!"