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Tensions Between Logan Heights Residents Outside Church-Goers Rooted In Cultural Divide

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Relations have become strained between members of the traditionalist St. Anne Catholic Church and neighborhood residents. The rift began primarily over street parking but is being fueled by a cultural divide.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Some residents of Logan Heights say a neighborhood church is not acting very neighborly relations have become strained between members of the traditionalist, Saint Ann Catholic church and neighborhood residents. The rift began primarily over street parking, but is being fueled by a cultural divide. Now back and forth, accusations of harassment are being hurled and police are getting to know the church's address very well. Joining me is San Diego union Tribune reporter Andrea Lopez via Fanya and Andrea, welcome to the program. Thank you for having me st. Anne's is a Catholic church in which the mass is still said in Latin, and that is the hallmark of a conservative or traditionalist Catholic church. Do most of the church members come from Logan Heights?

Speaker 2: 00:47 You know, I would say that they do not. Um, I asked several questions. I try to speak with the priest, but from observations, I went several times and most of the people who attend don't seem like they live in the neighborhood, primarily most of them are white. And the neighbors I spoke with, I'll say, you know, these are not individuals that we know from our community. These are people who are coming from the outside.

Speaker 1: 01:12 Now residents seemed to have picked up on some of the church goers political preferences, and it's apparently a point of contention.

Speaker 2: 01:20 Yeah. Yeah. I spoke with several residents who mostly pointed out that, you know, this is a predominantly, a Latino community and always has been. So there, there are some, um, who noticed that some of the individuals who come to the church, whether they park in the church's parking lot, or they park on the street, they'll have like bumper stickers. Right. And some of these bumper stickers that people pointed out to me included like Trump 20, 20, or, um, something about like sending illegals back. Um, there's also, uh, there's a mention of a bumper sticker that had like a graphic image against abortion. So, you know, just, um, a lot of these like bumper stickers that kind of, uh, display, you know, their political beliefs and that some of the residents felt that they, um, were insensitive to the people in the community,

Speaker 1: 02:11 The parking situation, like at st Anne's

Speaker 2: 02:14 The parking lot. Um, I don't know how many cars, the parking lot actually holds if I had to maybe estimate from what I saw, um, just several times that I went over there to observe maybe like 20, 30 cars, um, if they're squeezed in tightly, but it's a, it's a relatively small parking lot for that congregation. Um, so the parking tends to flow out into the street. I do know that on the weekends, the church borrows a parking lot from a nearby school, um, because of course, Sunday mass, uh, you get higher attendance and they have more services. Um, but you see that overflow, it just, you know, by going there, you see people, uh, parking, um, within the neighborhood.

Speaker 1: 02:56 And so from maybe tensions around parking and so forth, what have the other disputes resulted in? What has the situation been like? Yeah,

Speaker 2: 03:06 It's, it's been so interesting just to see it unfold from this like parking lot issue where maybe there was tension with winter, with one particular resident who was more outspoken than the rest. And she's, she started feeling that it was disrespectful, uh, you know, some of these bumper stickers, but, um, when the pandemic started, residents noticed that, um, some parishioners were coming to church and maybe, you know, because they park on the street would walk down down the street and they would notice that they weren't wearing face mask. Uh, they were still holding mass. Um, so people would go in there not wearing face mask. So people were concerned, you know, these individuals are in there and they're coming out into our community and are they infecting us? Um, so someone may raised an issue about them not wearing facemasks and then it kind of evolved into something else.

Speaker 2: 03:55 When we saw this big push for racial justice, following all the black lives matter protests that we had here in San Diego, um, some of the residents put up, uh, black lives matter signs. And, um, there was an altercation, mostly just verbal between a parishioner and an older woman. Um, he was just asking her to take the sign down and, uh, you know, yelling at her using explicit language. So it's just evolved to like these little, um, negative interactions where there doesn't seem to be any kind of follow up from, from maybe those empower who could try to ease those tensions,

Speaker 1: 04:32 Tensions have spilled over into social media as well.

Speaker 2: 04:36 Yeah, so that, that's actually how I became aware of the story. Um, a post was made on, on a Facebook at neighborhood group and residents were really upset about an altercation that had happened with regards to a black lives matter poster. And someone suggested, Hey, let's organize a black lives matter protest outside of these church. Um, you know, they made other accusations that whether those were real or not, um, I have no way of knowing, but that post was shared just across like different, random social media accounts. And eventually it led to, um, the woman who made the original post, um, her information, her, um, her address being posted on, on some of these things. So, you know, she was doxed and, um, got some death threats and it just, it just blew up on social media.

Speaker 1: 05:27 Yeah. It's a spiraling situation. What's been the official response from st. Anne's to these growing tensions.

Speaker 2: 05:35 I tried to speak with the priest there and, um, he referred me to this San Diego diocese and, and they were aware of, of some of the parking issues, but did not respond to my other inquiries. So no response, I guess,

Speaker 1: 05:52 But the police have responded. They've been called to st. Anne's numerous times in the last year from your reporting, Andrea, how do you assess the situation now? Is it getting any better?

Speaker 2: 06:02 I think it's going to continue. I'm interested in seeing what happens, you know, after, um, you know, after the article published, I'm interested in seeing w w if something has done, um, if any kind of outreach happens. Um, but I think this is still going to happen. The most recent call that SDPD had was a complaint that people weren't wearing face masks and they weren't social distancing. So I think that, you know, their SDPD is probably going to continue getting these calls from residents who are, um, upset about what they're observing in their neighborhoods. So I think we're going to continue seeing these tensions until something officially gets done to, to address that

Speaker 1: 06:43 I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter, Andrea Lopez via Fanya. And thank you very much for speaking with us.

Speaker 2: 06:50 Thank you for having me. [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.