Police in Chicago prevented popular California worship leader Sean Feucht and the “Let Us Worship” movement from setting up musical equipment for a “riots to revival” worship protest to be attended by hundreds at a park in the city’s South Side Wednesday, the evangelist said.
Feucht, who's led several worship events in cities impacted by riots in recent weeks, said on Facebook that Chicago police threatened to take action if the group began to set up musical equipment for a worship event at Washington Park that they did not have a permit for.
Feucht, the founder of the Let Us Worship movement who is known for his work with Bethel Music, charged that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot “shut us down” and said that police threatened to arrest him and others if they began to set up the gear.
“We are here in the South Side of Chicago,” Feucht says in one Facebook video.
“We got a lot of local pastors out here. We are setting up to worship peacefully over this city, a very diverse group. And the police show up. Over 30 of them are here to shut us down. They won’t let us take our equipment out. Meanwhile, people are destroying this city with free reign. They are targeting Christians.”
In another video, Feucht said that the “mayor alerted police to show up and shut us down.”
“Right now, we have all of these officers and a whole line of police over there and over there,” he said. “They told us if we set up right now that they would take all of our gear and bring us into prison. But Christians are rising up. This is our new day for the Church. This is our 26th city and we are not about to stop now.”
The prayer event comes as Chicago has been victimized by looting in recent weeks and months amid the social unrest that has gripped the nation since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Memorial Day.
According to a co-organizer of the Chicago event who spoke with The Christian Post, organizers did not have a permit but were prepared to hold the worship event as a form of peaceful protest like they have done in other cities.
Officers told organizers that while they could continue to protest peacefully in the street, they were not allowed to erect any type of sound system or tent structure.
Videos posted later in the night showed a large crowd marching along in worship through the streets of Chicago using only acoustic instruments and a bull horn.
The Christian Post reached out to the Chicago Police Department and the mayor’s office for a response.
While a response is pending from the mayor’s office, the police department said in a statement that “CPD officers were on-site at this gathering to safeguard those in attendance.”
"The Chicago Police Department is committed to ensuring First Amendment rights are safely facilitated, while also protecting the safety of the participants,” the department’s statement added.
The events in Chicago come after Feucht and company held a rally attended by over 200 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, the city where African American Jacob Blake was shot by police when he attempted to grab a knife after resisting arrest in August. Blake was trespassing on the property of a woman (presumably his girlfriend) who called police to report that he had stolen her car keys. Court records show that Blake had previously been arrested at that same property on July 6 and charged with one felony count of third-degree sexual assault, trespassing, and disorderly conduct related to domestic abuse. He also had an outstanding felony warrant for his arrest.
The officer's shooting of Blake, who is now paralyzed due to his injuries, led to weeks of protests, riots, vandalism and arson attacks on local businesses.
Previously, the Let Us Worship movement has held rallies in Minneapolis, Portland and Seattle. Many more are planned.
The Let Us Worship events have gained criticism from some who fear they could spread COVID-19. They have even led to a backlash from some local officials, such as in Seattle, where officials shut a local park to prevent them from hosting a worship rally on Labor Day.
In Minnesota, “retroactive action is being considered” because the group did not have the required government approval.
Pastor Charles Karuku, president of the Unity Revival Movement, who has worked with Feucht since June and has himself led a revival movement in Minneapolis, told CP that they came into Chicago intending to have a Let Us Worship night.
“We were supposed to be at Washington Park and when we arrived to set up, that is when I was told by the park security that they would not allow us to gather there because we don’t have a permit,” he explained.
“In every city we've gathered, we've gathered either with a permit or out of protest where we don’t need a permit and the event goes on with no problem either way. Last night, they said, ‘Yes you can gather as a protest because that is constitutionally allowed, but you cannot use or set up any equipment.’”
According to Karuku, police threatened to confiscate the equipment and hand out tickets if they set up.
“It looked like the mayor of Chicago was giving orders to make sure there is no worship event in Chicago with Sean,” he charged. “These people were completely under the instructions of someone calling shots in the high places. It was ordered coming from above.”
“For us, we were exercising our First Amendment, the right to assemble and do what we need to do peacefully,” the pastor added. “Our team was talking to who’s who in the city except for the mayor. And I can tell you, everyone that we talked to were for what we were doing and wanted it to be done.”
At one point, Karuku said the deputy chief of police brought a bullhorn to the organizers so that they could address the crowd. Karuku said there were hundreds in attendance.
“That was so kind of her, to see her trying to balance obeying the orders from above and helping us do something she considered very innocent,” he said.
Karuku said that he was ready to get the ticket. But the consensus was they didn’t want any confrontation between the crowd and police.
He added that the people who showed up for the rally spanned across racial lines, calling it a “spectrum of people” who came to pray for peace and unity.
Karuku said the night lasted from 6 p.m. until about 8:30 p.m., featuring baptisms, over an hour-plus of worship, a 30-minute worship march, and dancing. Karuku said that with a conservative estimate, about 30 people were baptized in the street.
“We didn’t even have a place to set up a baptismal,” he said. “We had to load it on the back of a truck and back it up. So people were baptized from a baptismal loaded on the back of a truck. That is the length we had to go through to be able to have an event in America.”
The pastor assured that no arrests were made during their worship protest.
“We rented on our own dime port-a-potties so that we don’t have to [relieve ourselves] around the park,” he said, adding that it cost thousands of dollars to put on an event like that.
On Thursday, the Let Us Worship movement hosted a worship event in Cleveland, Ohio. Organizers of the event in Cleveland were reportedly given a citation for not having a permit.
“We have built incredible relationships with local churches,” he said, noting that Feucht has hosted Zoom meeting with local faith leaders in cities he hosts events in to ensure they are part of the planning.
Karuku admitted, however, that some churches have rejected the movement.
“The good thing is few have said no and more have said yes,” he said. “We have incredible support on the ground. Many churches are closed right now and some of these people in these cities are starving spiritually. When they see something is coming to their city, they come out.”
While Feucht, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2020, has been described as a “political activist,” Karuku assured that there are no politics at Let Us Worship events.
“If you watch one of those live videos, you will not hear any political statement being made,” he added. “We don’t have time for that right now. What we have time for is to tell people these riots are turning into revival and to tell people that Jesus is coming soon and we better get ready. The focus of these events is worship.”
“You will not see anything like what you are reading online when you come to the event and experience the presence of God,” he said. “The results speak for themselves with sometimes thousands of people that are coming and the worship experiences they are having; people are getting saved and healed and baptized. I don’t think that happens at a Trump rally.”
On Oct. 25, a Let Us Worship event will be held in the nation’s capital two weeks before the Nov. 3 election.
“That is when we want to see all these people in cities that we have been to come together at the National Mall on Oct. 25,” Karuku concluded. “We will be there the whole day and we want to see America experience a national revival. This is the beginning of the new Jesus people movement.”