Sheriff's deputies evict Church of Urth occupants at Mercy Junct - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Sheriff's deputies evict Church of Urth occupants at Mercy Junction

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

The two men who claim to be leaders of a religious group were forcibly removed by sheriff's deputies from Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center on Friday. 

Tyler Short and Ryan Holmes call themselves the "Church of Urth," and have been holed up at the center for the last month.

Beth Foster, the center's director, said the work at the center to feed and care for the homeless and anyone else has been halted for the past 40 days. She said Mercy Junction rents about 30 spaces to people in need. Holmes and Short renewed a lease in May after they first moved in December 2016. 

by making threatening comments on Facebook, Foster explained the two had violated their lease agreement. She said all renters are required to commit to the center's values of anti-racism, anti-sexism, hospitality, peacemaking and  non-violence. 

"We woke up to just a barrage of Facebook post that threatened violence, rape. There we're just comments that were just totally antithetical to Mercy junctions principles," said Foster. "We had an elder who was threatened by text message by these men; a plumber who was harassed in the building. They actually stole some of the mail and posted photos of it online, so those are some of the things we've been dealing with." 

Short credits Holmes for the controversial posts and said the duo followed the rules. 

"They were not threatening. He said some things that were not very nice, but I'll let him defend himself on that. He has his own views on why he did that. I have personally not made any remarks like that," said Short. 

Foster said the center's attorney, Robin Flores secured a "writ of possession" Friday morning that allows deputies to act on a court order in favor of Mercy Junction to remove the Short and Holmes' belongings from the building. Holmes and Short did not file an appeal by 4 p.m in Hamilton County General Sessions Court, which allowed Flores to do so.

"They were kind enough to give me 15 minutes to pack up some of my expensive belongings; some of my guitars. So that was really nice of them. I shook their hands and walked out," said Short. 

Holmes was not present when deputies arrived. 

When asked if Short planned to seek legal action against the center, he said he could not comment at the time. 

"They're supposed to be acting out of a place of love and they're not and I see that there's probably a lot of fear and pain in their hearts and so I pray for them," said Short. "It's a little upsetting but Urth will continue and thrive." 

Foster said the future of the clinic is unclear because of the loss of profit during the standoff with Short and Holmes. She said the center's elders will meet over the weekend to decide whether the center will open on Monday, and figure out a long term plan. 

The center is typically open from 2-7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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