SALEM, OR (KPTV) — A group of churches says it’s been gathering every night in Salem for weeks and even got city permits to do so, but the city says that permit is no longer valid.
The group of churches goes by the name Salem Awakening 2020 and raised $17,000 for permits to meet in Riverfront Park from Father’s Day to Sept. 7.
“The world right now is hurting, and we wanted to give the world a message of hope and we believe the church has that hope, which is Jesus Christ,” said Amanda Vital, who started the group with her husband David.
Organizers say that about 150 people meet in the park each night, and the group tries to adhere to all COVID-19 regulations.
“We announce every day when we start that we are supposed to be following guidelines. Everybody needs to be separated by households and people are advised to wear masks,” Vital said.
But the group says their permit to meet and use sound equipment at the park’s amphitheater has been revoked.
“Right now, I really feel like we’re being violated by our First Amendment,” said organizer Mario Aguilar.
The City of Salem says it has been working with the group to try and find a solution moving forward.
The city says the issue is that under new guidelines, there must be a social monitor or contact tracer for every 50 people.
It says it’s looking into providing employees with voluntary overtime to be able to provide that.
The group says the city has been working with them, but some feel like their battle is with the state and these new regulations.
“I ultimately feel like we’re wrestling against Kate Brown and ultimately the state,” Aguilar said.
But the group says they’re not giving up.
“We have a prayer movement starting tomorrow where we’re going to start praying for eight days and we’re going to continue praying all night 24/7 for eight days and see what God really leads us to doing,” said Aguilar.
Salem Awakening 2020 says it will continue to meet in the park every night through Sept. 7
. It says the city has told them it can’t stop people from meeting outside, but that they can’t use their sound equipment without the permit. Organizers say they will not be adhering to that rule, because it causes people to group closer to be able to hear.
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